Hurricane center believes storm will stay off the coast and not make landfall

Forecasters believe Hurricane Joaquin is becoming less of a threat to North Carolina, as predictions Thursday afternoon call for a storm that continues to stay off the coast.

The National Hurricane Center shifted the projected path of the storm farther east, keeping the cemter well away from North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Most of Eastern North Carolina is now out of the hurricane center’s cone of uncertainty as it relates to the project path of the storm.

Still, the storm may bring gusty winds and more rain showers to the area. The coast will see high surf and rip currents with the possibility of beach erosion. The storm’s approach with increasing winds could also cause water levels in the Neuse River and associated creeks to increase.

In response to the projected path of the storm, Cape Lookout National Seashore has closed until the storm passes.

The Croatan National Forest closed its campgrounds, day-use areas and some roads and will evaluated conditions for reopening on Monday.

Joaquin’s winds increased Thursday to 130 mph, a category 4 storm, as it moved through the central Bahamas on Thursday. As the storm begins to move northward, it is expected to weaken as it moves past the North Carolina coast Sunday and Monday.

On Wednesday, the hurricane center expected the storm to pass over the Outer Banks of North Carolina, but that forecast has steadily shifted east.

Whether the storm nears the coast or not, the Havelock area is expecting 4 to 6 inches of rain through Saturday because of an unrelated system coming out of the Gulf of Mexico and moving up along the East Coast. The area is under a flood watch through Saturday evening.