How Hurricane Joaquin Will Affect The East Coast

Hurricane Joaquin became a Category 4 storm on Thursday, and it hit the Bahamas with 130 mph winds and 10 to 15 inches of rain. But how will Hurricane Joaquin affect the U.S. East Coast and flights this weekend as the storm moves north? New Jersey and Virginia, along with several other states, have already declared a state of emergency. Meteorologists are predicting, though, that the storm will remain at sea and won't make landfall in the United States. Still, if you're on the East Coast, expect heavy rains, strong winds, and potential flooding this weekend — forecasters have predicted that Hurricane Joaquin could bring record-breaking amounts of rainfall to some parts of the country.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said that while the memory of Hurricane Sandy, which took place three years ago, may cause New Jersey residents to fear the worst, they should be prepared without falling into a state of panic. "I'm not here to tell people that Sandy 2 is coming," Christie said at a news conference Thursday. He also noted, however, that because the state is already expecting a nor'easter storm this weekend, the combined effect with Hurricane Joaquin could be a "double punch." New Jersey's emergency plan would evacuate residents from four counties in the southern part of the state.

But what about the rest of the country, and the states that haven't declared states of emergency? Will airline flights be delayed or canceled this weekend because of the storm's strong winds and heavy rains? According to The Weather Channel, the hurricane's threat has already impacted cruises and flights. Disney Cruise Lines has rerouted several of its ships traveling near the Bahamas, and BahamasAir canceled multiple flights. Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, has issued a travel advisory for flights traveling to and from Nassau on Friday and Saturday.

And while most major U.S. airlines haven't made official announcements about flight changes resulting from the storm, Delta has also issued an advisory warning about flights traveling to and from the Bahamas this weekend. Similarly, U.S. Airways is allowing passengers who are scheduled to travel through the Bahamas to change their flight tickets for the weekend. Still, a representative from AAA told Tampa's WTSP that U.S. airlines haven't given the organization a warning about changing tickets because of the storm, so if you're not traveling through the Bahamas, your flight schedule may not be affected if Hurricane Joaquin doesn't make landfall. Even so, it's not a bad idea to plan for delays, in case the storm does hit the United States.