Hurricane center continues to adjust forecast

Hurricane Joaquin is projected to stay off the coast of North Carolina, but its close approach could produce rain and some gusty winds in the area.

The coast will see high surf and rip currents with the possibility of beach erosion. The storms 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 is evacuating visitors and will be closed until the storm passes.

The Croatan National Forest announced it will close all its campgrounds, day-use areas and some roads beginning at 4:30 p.m. today and continuing through the weekend. An assessment is scheduled for Monday on when the areas will reopen.

The National Hurricane Center updated its forecast at 11 a.m. today, and the projected path keeps the storm off the coast of North Carolina as it moves north. The storm, with winds of 125 mph and currently located in the Bahamas, is expected to weaken as it stays east of the Outer Banks as it moves by late Sunday and into 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 in the last couple of forecasts. Still, some of the center’s forecast models still show a landfalling hurricane in North Carolina, while others kick the storm farther out to sea.

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.