UPDATE (11 p.m.) -- Joaquin's strength is basically unchanged, but the projected forecast path is more focused on the offshore waters of the western Atlantic, with lesser coverage of the forecast cone along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. This would slightly minimize direct impacts felt along the coast, and, if this track comes to pass, Joaquin would possibly avoid a landfall in the United States.
MIDWAY, Fla. (WTXL) -- Hurricane Joaquin intensified into the season's strongest hurricane so far, with Category 4-level wind speeds.
Late Thursday afternoon, the storm was about 70 miles from San Salvador in the Bahamas, with highest sustained winds of 130 mph.
Joaquin was moving to the southwest at 6 mph.
Hurricane warnings are in effect for the central and northwestern Bahamas. No tropical-related advisories are issued for any parts of the United States.
After slow movement toward some of the islands in the Central Bahamas, the major hurricane will begin a sharp turn to the north as a cold front and associated upper low force Joaquin's change in direction and speed. Upper-level winds are still light enough to allow the storm to maintain its strength for now, aided by very warm ocean water temperatures.
Joaquin will avoid the Florida and Georgia coastlines, but higher surf may be experienced along those shores.
By the weekend, Joaquin will parallel the central part of the U.S. east coast. The latest forecast data suggest the center of the storm may remain just off the eastern seaboard, as cooler water temperatures and stronger upper-level winds cause a gradual weakening trend.
The late-afternoon cone of possible forecast movement skims the North Carolina Outer Banks Sunday, and encompasses the Jersey Shore through the New England coast through early next week.