Hurricane Joaquin has strengthened to a Category 4 storm from Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with maximum sustained winds of 130 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday. The storm, which is already battering parts of the Bahamas, may intensify further in the next 24 hours, the NHC said in its latest advisory. Tropical storm conditions are now expected to affect other areas in the Bahamas, as well as the Turks and Caicos islands, later tonight. Rain bands are expected to affect parts of eastern Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, it said. For now, Joaquin is still expected to create a prolonged period of elevated water levels in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region. There was no update on whether the storm would make landfall anywhere in the U.S.
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