Hurricane Lee Churns West as a Powerful Category 4 Storm

From a story on by Andrew Freedman headlined “Hurricane Lee churns west as a powerful Category 4 storm”:

Hurricane Lee “skyrocketed” in intensity on Thursday and strengthened into a Category 5 storm just before 11pm ET, before weakening slightly to a Category 4 storm Friday morning, per the National Hurricane Center.

The big picture: The powerful hurricane is forecast to move well north of the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico, and may slow down east-northeast of the Bahamas this weekend.

The NHC found the storm made an exceptional intensity leap of 80 mph in 24 hours. The escalation greatly exceeds the 35 mph increase needed to fit the definition of rapid intensification.

State of play: Lee was a Category 1 storm with 80 mph winds at 5am Thursday ET. Twelve hours later, its maximum sustained winds had increased to 130 mph — making it a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson intensity scale.

As of 5pm ET on Friday, the high-end Category 4 storm’s maximum sustained winds were 150 mph, as it continued to move west-northwest at about 13 mph.

The core is expected to move north of the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico over the weekend and into next week, the NHC stated Friday at 5pm ET.

“Dangerous surf and life-threatening rip currents are affecting portions of the northern Leeward Islands,” the agency said, and such conditions are expected to spread to Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Bermuda through the weekend.

The intrigue: Given that this storm is likely to remain an extremely powerful Category 4 or 5 storm into early next week, its track is one to watch closely.

The current NHC forecast shows it staying far enough north of the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico that they would avoid significant impacts.

Over the next three days, Hurricane Lee will continue to traverse some of the warmest waters in the Atlantic, providing energy for the storm to intensify.

The NHC said the largest risks from Lee over the next few days will be high seas and dangerous surf, with rip currents expected to begin affecting parts of the northern Caribbean on Friday.

Yes, but: Given typical storm track errors this far in advance, it’s possible the storm could affect the continental U.S. and Canadian Maritimes more directly, the NHC cautioned.

“It is way too soon to know what level of impacts, if any, Lee might have along the U.S. East Coast, Atlantic Canada, or Bermuda late next week, particularly since the hurricane is expected to slow down considerably over the southwestern Atlantic,” the agency said late Thursday.

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