Hurricane Joaquin was upgraded to a Category 3 storm, packing 120-mph winds as it approaches the Bahamas, and it is expected to intensify to a Category 4 storm by Friday.
The eye of the hurricane was near Samana Cay in the Bahamas at 8 a.m., and the central Bahamas were expected to get hurricane-force winds, storm surge and heavy rain through tonight, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Different forecast models predicted that a weakened Joaquin would either veer northwestward, ramming into Virginia, Maryland or North Carolina this weekend, or avoid the East Coast entirely as it takes a more easterly track up the Atlantic.
The National Hurricane Center model predicted that the storm will travel up the U.S. coastline, bringing high-powered winds, coastal erosion and flooding. Though forecast models vary, forecasters agree that the East Coast will feel the effects of the storm regardless.
Torrential rains were expected Saturday throughout the mid-Atlantic and Southeast as Joaquin was expected to weaken to a Category 3 storm, with beach erosion occurring potentially from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, as well as coastal flooding, according to NBC News.
It was expected to further weaken on Sunday to a Category 2, bringing major flooding in the Southeast with 55-mph coastal gusts from Maine to the Carolinas.
If the storm continues along the coastal path, it could bring severe winds and flooding to New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Maine.
Marina and marine industry insurance provider Gowrie Group issued a hurricane storm center on its website, giving boaters and boat businesses preparedness tips.