ATLANTA – While Hurricane Joaquin churns and is expected to gain strength in the coming hours, its eventual path remains questionable, but it could affect the Garden State.

Some models of the storm’s track eventually bring it to the southern tip of New Jersey by early next week, but confidence in the model “is low,” according to the National Weather Service.

Local government agencies are communicating in case the storm’s track brings it to our backyards, and officials want residents to keep up on the latest information.

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According to the National Weather Service Hurricane Center in Atlanta, Hurricane Joaquin has strengthened some more as it moves toward the Central Bahamas.

Reports from an Air Force Reserve Hurricane aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds have increased to near 80 mph -- a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, according to the NWS.

Additional strengthening is expected, and Joaquin could become a major hurricane during the next couple of days, the service said in a post on its Facebook page this morning.

Joaquin is currently centered about 215 miles east-northeast of the Central Bahamas, moving toward the southwest near 6 mph (9 km/h).

A general motion toward the west-southwest or southwest is expected to continue through tonight, the service said.

A turn toward the northwest and a decrease in forward speed are forecast Thursday or Thursday night. The center of Joaquin is expected to move near or over portions of the central Bahamas tonight and Thursday, according to the report.

A Hurricane Warning continues for the Central Bahamas, including Cat Island, the Exumas, Long Island, Rum Cay, and San Salvador.

A Hurricane Watch continues for the Northwest Bahamas, including the Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini, Eleuthera, Grand Bahama Island, and New Providence, but not Andros Island. Hurricane conditions are expected to reach portions of the Central Bahamas by Thursday morning.

According to the report, winds are expected to first reach tropical storm strength in the warning area tonight, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous.

Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion, according to the service.

Tropical storm conditions are possible in the southeastern Bahamas beginning tonight. Hurricane conditions could reach the northwestern Bahamas early on Friday, the NWS said.

According to the report, confidence in the details of the track forecast late in the period remains low, since the environmental steering currents are complex and the model guidance is inconsistent.

The report said that a wide range of outcomes is possible, from a direct impact of a major hurricane along the U.S. east coast to a track of Joaquin out to sea away from the coast.

It is therefore way too soon to talk about specific wind, rain, or surge impacts from Joaquin in the U.S., the report said.

Get the latest on this tropical cyclone by visiting the NHC website at