MIAMI - Joaquin strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday as it moved toward the Bahamas, the US National Hurricane Center said.
It was packing maximum sustained winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour as it hovered about 245 miles northeast of the island chain, which issued a hurricane warning to brace for heavy winds and rains.
The NHC said the eye of the storm was expected to move near or over the central Bahamas later Wednesday or Thursday.
The storm will continue to strengthen and move toward the Bahamas, but forecasters expect it will then turn north and move along the US East Coast, without a direct hit.
Joaquin is expected to bring heavy rainfall of up to 15 inches (38 centimeters) over San Salvador and Rum Cay through early Friday. Precipitation of up to five inches is forecast over other parts of the central Bahamas.
The islands could also face flooding in coastal and maritime areas and life-threatening surf and rip currents, according to the NHC.
Joaquin is the third hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic season, which began in June and ends in November.
But the most destructive weather pattern so far this year was Tropical Storm Erika, which killed around 30 people and caused extensive damage in August on the small Caribbean island of Dominica.