Hurricane forecast for me to become a cat. 4
- Lee became the fourth hurricane of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season.
- It will pass north of the Leeward Islands this weekend as a severe hurricane.
- It is too early to know what areas this hurricane may threaten next week.
- Bermuda and the northeastern coast of the United States and Atlantic Canada should monitor the forecast.
Hurricane Lee is expected to rapidly strengthen to a powerful Category 4 by the end of this week as it passes north of the Leeward Islands, but its future beyond that is uncertain regarding potential impacts later next week in Bermuda, Atlantic Canada and possibly parts of the northeast coast.
Here’s where the system is now and its prediction trajectory: Hurricane Lee is centered more than 1,000 miles east of the Lesser Antilles. Lee became the 13th storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season on Tuesday afternoon and the fourth hurricane of the season late Wednesday afternoon. That was more than a week before the fourth average hurricane intensity on Sept. 16, according to National Hurricane Center data.
Lee will be tracking west-northwest over the next few days. This will bring it over increasingly warm ocean waters, in an area of less wind shear and in a wetter environment.
Given the environment conducive to strengthening, the National Hurricane Center expects Lee to rapidly strengthen to a Category 4 hurricane by late Friday or this weekend.
(more: 12 facts you may not know about hurricane forecasts)
It is not much of a threat to the Caribbean. Lee is expected to reach the Lesser Antilles longitude by the end of this week as a severe hurricane.
However, most computer models expect Lee’s center to pass north of the northern Leeward Islands, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, this weekend.
In view of this, the most likely impacts will be outer bands of rain, possibly torrential at times, some gusty winds, dangerous waves and rip currents, particularly along the northern and northeastern coasts.
The risk of high waves and a rip current is likely to persist through most of the next week from the Bahamas and Hispaniola to the northern Leeward Islands.
Interests in these areas should continue to closely monitor the progress of these forecasts and have their plans ready for hurricanes, should Lee head toward an unlikely southerly path.
What could happen next? A combination of factors will determine where Hurricane Lee will eventually head next week.
This includes how strong and wide the Bermuda-Azores elevation was at that time. This acts as a steering wheel for hurricanes in the tropics.
If this Bermuda-Azores rise is weaker and less expansive, it means the hurricane could bounce back into the mid-Atlantic without threatening the mainland United States.
If the rally is stronger and broader and builds up to the west, that could lead this system to the west and possibly pose a threat to at least parts of the east coast of the United States later next week.
For now, trends in the computer model’s guidance of the group over the past few days suggest that the “curve” may not be steep enough to avoid all areas of the Earth.
Lee will eventually turn right to the north next week. But its steering winds may not allow it to turn to the northeast sharply enough to avoid a direct hit or graze at least parts of Atlantic Canada late next week.
The further north Lee turns, and then turns northeast, the greater the chance it will track close to at least parts of New England to bring some rain and wind there late next week. Complicating matters also, as with most Atlantic hurricanes, Lee’s wind field will get larger as it moves north next week.
What is certain about Lee’s trajectory, no matter exactly where it heads, is that it will generate dangerous high waves, rip currents, some coastal flooding, and even beach erosion along the east coast in the next week. This is particularly the case from North Carolina to New England.
As with most hurricanes, These expectations are subject to change. Check back with us at Weather.com for the latest information on this and the 2023 hurricane season.
Jonathan Erdmann is a senior meteorologist for Weather.com and has been covering national and international weather since 1996. His lifelong love of meteorology began with a close encounter with a tornado as a kid in Wisconsin. He studied physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, then completed a master’s degree working with bipolarization radar and lightning data at Colorado State University. Severe and strange weather are his favorite subjects. Connect with him on X (formerly Twitter), threads And Facebook.
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment, and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.