Here comes the story of a hurricane—Hurricane Joaquin.

The National Weather Service this morning updated the status of what had been a tropical storm since Monday to a Category 1 hurricane. Sustaining winds of up to 85 mph, Joaquin is expected to reach the Bahamas within the next day. Afterwards, it could veer up the Atlantic Ocean towards the D.C.-metro area, bringing with it heavy rains and flooding by Saturday night. Whether it touches the coastline all depends on surrounding atmospheric conditions, and especially on what one local meteorologist calls an “upper- level disturbance” that will hit the District within the next 48 hours. This disturbance, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration staffer Kevin Witt explains, may pull Joaquin northwestern from its current location, but it’s still too soon to tell its full impact.

“The bottom line is we’re expecting a good bit of rain through Sunday night,” Witt says. “The range is pretty wide right now concerning Joaquin. We could see two to 10 inches.”

The Weather Channel reports that Joaquin is the Atlantic’s third hurricane this season, and that thunderstorms have developed near its center as of yesterday afternoon: “The American [Global Forecast System] model forecast continues to show Joaquin making an alarming northwestward turn, slamming it right into Virginia, Maryland or North Carolina this weekend. Meanwhile, the European [Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts] model suggests Joaquin has a chance of staying away from the [East Coast].”

Witt pointed to Hurricane Isabel in 2003 as a source of worry for area residents: It landed in North Carolina as a Category 2 storm and ratcheted up to Category 5 status within just a few days, leaving more than $5 billion in damages behind. In D.C., Isabel downed trees, flooded neighborhoods, and cut off power for hundreds of thousands of people.

“It’s too early to tell what Joaquin will do [to D.C.],” Witt advises. “We’ll see what it does within the next 48 hours, whether it comes inland.”

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