Hurricane Joaquin, Forecast to Become Category 4 Storm, Hammers Bahamas; U.S. Landfall Still Possible Oct 1 2015 08:47 AM EDT The Latest (5 a.m. EDT Thursday) Hurricane Joaquin's center is located about 65 miles southeast of San Salvador in the central Bahamas. Maximum sustained winds are estimated at 120 mph, a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale. Joaquin is undergoing rapid intensification that may bring it to Category 4 intensity sometime Thursday. This system is moving slowly to the west-southwest and this is expected to continue through Thursday before turning north Friday into Saturday. Hurricane watches and warnings are in effect for a large part of the Bahamas, where life-threatening conditions are expected in some areas. Joaquin may directly or indirectly affect the East Coast late this weekend or early next week, and a landfall is possible. Moisture and/or energy associated with Joaquin could enhance rainfall along the cold front in the Northeast late this week. Regardless, the East Coast will see significant impacts from the larger scale weather pattern taking shape. Hurricane Joaquin strengthened to major hurricane status as a Category 3 storm Wednesday night, and is now hammering the central Bahamas. Prospects remain worrisome for the U.S. mainland as the official forecast continues with a chance of the East Coast seeing its first landfalling hurricane in 15 months.