It looks like Long Islanders have been spared a close encounter with Joaquin, which was downgraded to a Category 3 hurricane as it pummeled the Bahamas on Friday.

The storm is expected to pass offshore Monday, far enough to the east to have no direct effect on the Island, other than contributing to higher seas and rougher ocean conditions, said David Stark, National Weather Service meteorologist based in Upton.

For days, though, the storm's track was touch-and-go, with various computer models indicating several potential routes, ranging from an eastward turn out to sea to a direct hit.

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"The great news for us is that we will have dodged a bullet," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said at a news conference late Friday morning at Robert Moses State Park.

Referring to his earlier comments as to being in a "prepare and prayer mode," Bellone said, "It looks like our prayers were answered with this storm -- this hurricane -- moving off shore."

We're not totally home free, however, because an unrelated frontal system will bring gusty northeast winds Saturday that will lessen somewhat Sunday, the National Weather Service said. It also will cause high surf for the South Shore, minor coastal flooding, and beach erosion from rough seas and waves. Temperatures were expected in the low to mid-50s Saturday, and high 50s to low 60s Sunday. In a nutshell, "windy, cool and unsettled," the weather service said.

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"While the weekend will bring overall better weather to the area when compared to Friday, temperatures will still remain below normal, winds will be gusty and the risk of hit or miss type showers continues into Saturday," News 12 Traffic & Weather meteorologist Jerry Manziello said.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, Joaquin had winds of around 125 mph, and was forecast to drop 12 to 18 inches of rain on the central Bahamas, said the National Hurricane Center.

Happily for Long Islanders and others on the East Coast, the system was expected to turn to the northeast, then north, then northeast again, this time with "good agreement" from the models.

With David Schwartz

CORRECTION: Earlier versions of this story had an incorrect affiliation for meteorologist Jerry Manziello.