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Joaquin tracks away from US, but East Coast still in for dangerous flooding

Hurricane Joaquin may be remaining out at sea for now, but states along the East Coast are bracing for heavy rains and the possibility of life-threatening flooding even if the hurricane decides to not make landfall.

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Airmen and volunteers place sandbags outside of a building at Langley Air Force Base Thursday afternoon, as heavy rain falls in Hampton, Va. The base will be closed to all non-mission essential personnel beginning Friday morning. The base's leadership made the decision based on projected tidal surges and potential flooding from Hurricane Joaquin.

Kaitlin McKeown/The Daily Press/AP

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Hurricane Joaquin may be remaining out at sea for now, but states up the East Coast are bracing for heavy rains and the possibility of life-threatening flooding even if the hurricane decides to not make landfall.

"I know we like to focus on the hurricane," David Novak, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, told the Associated Press. "[But] we're becoming increasingly confident and concerned about the heavy rainfall." 

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On Wednesday, rainfall in several states was enough to break records. Boston, for example, got 2.46 inches; the previous record was 1.26 inches in a day, set in 1899.

Governors in five states – Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia – have already declared states of emergency. Some of them are preparing to mobilize National Guard troops. The National Weather Service has also issued flash flood alerts. Torrential, damaging rains are expected, even though forecasts suggest that the hurricane will stay offshore while it heads northward.

"I cannot stress enough that we are talking about the real possibility of deadly flooding in many areas around our state," North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said at a news conference.

While hurricane Joaquin put the Bahamas through the wringer, unleashing heavy rains and winds that may leave that small island nation without power for weeks or perhaps months, the NWS does not expect the hurricane to be a “major threat” to the East Coast.

The hurricane’s current track means that it will spare the Carolinas, New York, and New Jersey – no doubt a relief to the state where hurricane Sandy killed more than 120 people and resulted in approximately $70 billion in property damage three years ago.

"A strong majority of forecast models is now in agreement on a track farther away from the United States East Coast," the National Hurricane Center told Reuters. NHC has classified Joaquin, the third hurricane of the 2015 Atlantic season, as a Category 4 storm, with winds of up to 131-155 mph leaving catastrophic damage in its wake.

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This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.