SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP)- Millions along the East Coast breathed a little easier Friday after forecasters said Hurricane Joaquin would probably veer out to sea instead of joining up with a drenching rainstorm that is bringing severe flooding to parts of the Atlantic Seaboard.
For days, various computer models showed Joaquin hitting North Carolina's Outer Banks, New Jersey, New York's Long Island or Cape Cod, Massachusetts. But on Friday, with Joaquin over the Bahamas, U.S. National Hurricane Center director Rick Knabb said the hurricane was no longer expected to make a direct hit.
"The models have become much more in agreement, and we are pretty confident the hurricane is going to pass well offshore of the East Coast of the U.S.," he said.
That didn't mean the danger was over.
With the soil already saturated and roads flooded in places, East Coast states braced for more downpours over the weekend from an unusually heavy rainstorm. Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia were under states of emergency. Sussex County, Del. was placed under a limited state of emergency by Gov. Jack Markell on Friday.
The rainstorm was blamed for at least one death in South Carolina, where heavy rain has fallen for days.
As Joaquin swirled toward the U.S., many had feared the dangerous Category 4 hurricane would combine with the rainstorms and cause even worse ruin.
On Friday, the hurricane tore off roofs, uprooted trees and unleashed heavy flooding in the Bahamas, and the U.S. Coast Guard said it was searching for a missing 735-foot cargo ship with 33 people aboard.
As for the rainstorm in the U.S., its fatal unpredictability was shown when a Thursday morning downpour dumped 4 inches on Spartanburg, South Carolina, causing flash floods that submerged several cars. Sylvia Arteaga, 56, was trapped under a railroad bridge and drowned while driving home after working the night shift.
Hattie Palafox, a middle-school teacher and family friend, described Arteaga as a "very sweet, very kind, very loving" mother of 17- and 20-year-old daughters. Palafox said she had discussed the forecast with Arteaga earlier this week, and she hadn't seemed concerned.
Authorities around the region also warned that the soaked soil could cause trees to fall, and they said that might have played a role in the death of a passenger whose vehicle was hit by a tree on Interstate 95 near Fayetteville, N.C.
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