Hurricane Joaquin projected to head away from US coast

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Hurricane Joaquin, still an “extremely dangerous” category 4 storm packing sustained winds of 215 kilometres per hour, continued to batter the Bahamas Friday morning as its projected path puts it out to sea and away from the US mainland, according to the US National Hurricane Centre in Miami.

As of 8 am (1200 GMT), Joaquin was around 70 kilometres south south-west of San Salvador in the Bahamas, moving north-west at 6 kilometres per hour.

The most recent projections show the storm staying well off the US coast, though storm surge could still bring about flooding.

All schools were closed in the Bahamas Friday while all government offices were to close by noon.

Rainfall of more than 50 centimetres is possible in the Bahamas, as well as “life-threatening” storm surge of up to 3 metres above normal, according to the latest advisory.

Photos posted to the Bahamas Press website show severe flooding on Crooked and Long islands.

In the United States, preparations began Thursday in states along the Atlantic Coast for a possible Joaquin landfall.

New Jersey, where some beach communities were devastated by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and Virginia each declared states of emergency.

The governor of North Carolina has called for flood preparations.

The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale has five levels, with category 5 being the strongest with winds of at least 252 kilometres per hour.

Joaquin is the third and strongest hurricane of the 2015 season, following Danny and Fred.

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