UPDATE: Hurricane Joaquin gained power as it bore down on the central Bahamas early Thursday, and forecasters said it was likely to grow into a major storm while following a path that would near the U.S. East Coast by the weekend. Some minor damage was reported by Bahamas officials late Wednesday, and islanders rushed to prepare for storm surges and heavy rain from the approaching Joaquin. Authorities said the center was likely to pass near or over several islands during the night and Thursday.

Joaquin was a Category 3 storm with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph and hurricane strength winds extending 35 miles from the eye late Wednesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The center of the storm was about 170 miles east of the central Bahamas and moving southwest at 6 mph. The storm was predicted to turn to the north and northwest toward the United States late Thursday or Friday, but forecasters were still gathering data trying to determine how it might affect the U.S. FULL REPORT