On Saturday, the northeast Caribbean was ravaged by large surf while Hurricane Lee, a category 3 storm, raged nearby in open waters.
On Saturday morning, Category 3 Hurricane Lee was still hundreds of miles east of the Caribbean. However, according to forecasters, the storm’s effects might already be felt this weekend along the US Atlantic coast.
According to the US National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Lee had maximum sustained winds of 115 mph as of 11 am ET on Saturday, and it was about 350 miles or so east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands. Hurricane Lee, which had already attained Category 5 status, is predicted to retain its strength on Saturday but regain it over the weekend.
Although it is still too early to say if the Hurricane Lee’s center will directly hit the US mainland, the hurricane center said Hurricane Lee is forecast to bring strong currents and large waves to most of the East Coast of the US on Sunday and Monday and get worse during the rest of the week.
The Hurricane Lee will similarly affect Caribbean islands as it slowly moves west-northwest into the Atlantic.
The hurricane center issued a warning Friday night that Hurricane Lee-generated swells are hitting some of the Lesser Antilles.
According to the hurricane center’s 11 a.m. ET advisory, Hurricane Lee is heading toward the west-northwest at around 12 mph (19 km/h), and this motion is anticipated to last into early next week with a sharp decline in forward speed starting later today and Sunday.
In San Juan, Puerto Rico, the National Weather Service reported that 6 to 10 foot waves were expected to breach on Sunday.
Few storms have ever reached Hurricane Lee’s level of rarity and power.
According to the hurricane database maintained by NOAA, only 2% of hurricanes in the Atlantic reach Category 5 strength. Only 40 Category 5 hurricanes, including Hurricane Lee, have wreaked havoc in the Atlantic since 1924.
In warm ocean waters, Hurricane Lee, which was a Category 1 storm on Thursday, rapidly strengthened, more than doubling its wind speeds to 165 mph in only one day.
According to NOAA research meteorologist John Kaplan, the Hurricane Lee’s winds accelerated by 85 mph in a 24-hour period, tying it with Hurricane Matthew for the third-fastest rapid intensification in the Atlantic.