Hurricane Lee barrels through the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean after becoming the season’s first Category 5 storm – Daily Press

By Danica Cotto (Associated Press)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Lee slammed into the warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean on Friday and threatened to unleash severe waves across the northeastern Caribbean. It became the first Category 5 storm of the season before weakening slightly.

The hurricane, a Category 4 hurricane, is not currently expected to make landfall, but meteorologists have warned it will generate dangerous waves of up to 15 feet (5 meters) across the northern coast of Puerto Rico and other nearby islands. While Lee is on a path that could take a few hundred miles (kilometers) northeast of the Caribbean, no tropical storm conditions are expected in the area.

“Although the hurricane is incredibly powerful, the wind field is not particularly large,” the National Hurricane Center said.

The hurricane was located about 500 miles (805 kilometers) east of the northern Leeward Islands. Winds reached 150 mph (240 kph) and were moving west-northwest at 13 mph (20 kph).

“Fluctuations in intensity like what happened this morning are not uncommon in severe hurricanes,” the center said.

Winds are expected to intensify, reaching 180 mph (290 kmph). Only seven Atlantic hurricanes have experienced winds of this magnitude since 1966, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. Among those disasters was Hurricane Dorian, which hit the northern Bahamas in 2019 as a Category 5 storm, hovering over the smaller islands for about two days.

Hurricane Lee intensified from a Category 1 storm to a Category 5 storm in less than 24 hours, said Lee Engels, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Juan. She said warm waters and a lack of wind shear contributed to the rapid intensification.

“The hurricane had all the makings to become a powerful storm in such a short period of time,” she said.

And Engels warned that climate change will intensify storms more quickly in the coming years.

The hurricane center said dangerous waves and killer currents were likely to hit the northern Leeward Islands later on Friday. It will spread to Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and Bermuda over the weekend.

“We will see waves of 10 to 15 feet (3 and 5 metres), so we don’t want anyone on the beaches,” said Ernesto Morales of the National Weather Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The National Hurricane Center said dangerous waves and rough currents are expected across most of the US East Coast starting Sunday, but it had no further details on what the storm might unleash.

“It’s too early to tell what level of impact, if any, it might have on me along the East Coast of the United States, Atlantic Canada or Bermuda late next week,” the center said.

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden was given the latest track of the hurricane and details of preparations being made by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency. On Friday, the agency said about 4.5 million meals and nearly 8.9 million liters of water are available in Puerto Rico, and about 250,000 more meals and more than 600,000 liters of water in the US Virgin Islands.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it has also deployed rapid response teams to both US territories as a precaution.

Lee is the twelfth storm in the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 and peaks in September.

Tropical Storm Margot became the 13th storm after forming Thursday night. It was located about 705 miles (1,135 kilometers) WNW of the Cabo Verde Islands. Winds were gusting up to 40 mph (65 kph) and were expected to strengthen into a hurricane early next week. It was moving west-northwest at 17 mph (28 kph) and expected to remain over open water.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in August forecast between 14 and 21 named storms this season, of which six to 11 are expected to become hurricanes, and two to five of them are likely to develop into major hurricanes.

In the Pacific, Hurricane Jova swept through open waters off the southwest coast of Mexico and posed no threat to land.

It was located about 820 miles (1,320 kilometers) west of the southern tip of Baja California, and was moving west-northwest at 15 mph (24 kph) with winds up to 85 mph (140 kph). ).


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