(As originally published with gallery and video, Thu, September 7th 2023, 6:38 PM EDT)
MIAMI (TND) — Hurricane Lee grew much stronger, Thursday, from winds of 80 mph at 5 a.m. ET to winds of 130 mph at 5 p.m. That’s a jump from a category 1 storm to a category 4.
And there’s more to come.
According to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center,
“Additional strengthening is expected tonight.”
“All 4 regional hurricane models forecast that Lee will become a category 5 hurricane at some point in the next day or so.”
There will be fluctuations in intensity in the coming days, which is normal, “but Lee is forecast to remain a powerful major hurricane well into next week.”
In fact, the experts are so confident in their track that they made “almost no change” to the forecast for the next few days.
At 5 p.m. Thursday, the eye of Hurricane Lee was moving west-northwest at 15 mph and that’s expected to continue for several days. Then, it’ll slow down and pass north of the northern Leeward Islands.
There are no watches or warnings in effect, but the storm is forecast to stir up dangerously high swells. The swells could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions in the Lesser Antilles on Friday, and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Bahamas, and Bermuda over the weekend.
Then, rip currents are expected to begin on Sunday along most of the U.S. East Coast.
For now, there’s nothing stopping Lee. Low shear, very warm sea surface temperature, and a lot of moisture are working in its favor.
Keeping Lee from turning north is a subtropical ridge. That ridge is what will slow the storm when it gradually weakens by early next week.
As for an eventual turn north, keeping Lee from hitting the U.S., the forecasters said this:
“There is uncertainty in any northward turn of Lee beginning early next week, but it is too soon to speculate about specific potential impacts a week or more out.”
Also Thursday, Tropical Storm Margot formed in the far eastern Atlantic. That storm, with maximum sustained winds near 40 mph, is expected to become a hurricane but turn north well east of Bermuda and not affect land.