Hurricane Lee remained a large and powerful Category 3 hurricane in the open Atlantic on Tuesday, but the risk of landfall increased. The National Hurricane Center has now included parts of Cape Cod and Maine in its extended “cone of concern” and expects the storm to hit Nova Scotia this weekend.
Hurricane Lee could hit the New England coast and hit Canada by the end of the week
By then, Lee is expected to become a non-tropical storm and weaken, but its wind range will likely expand. There is at least some risk of wind and coastal impacts over parts of the northeastern United States and especially southeastern Canada.
First: Category 5 storms formed in every ocean basin this year
Lee became the first Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean this season on Friday morning, with maximum sustained winds estimated at 165 mph. It quickly weakened as quickly as it strengthened, gradually regaining major hurricane status over the weekend.
Hurricane Margot surrounds Lee, which lies 1,000 miles to the east and is set to drift aimlessly over the open ocean. By late week, a third system to watch may become a tropical storm or hurricane called Nigel and move west-northwest across the Atlantic.
Mid-September is historically the peak of hurricane season, and technically, if the season ended now, it would still be within the average range. But we’re still only halfway through, and in line with preseason forecasts, it’s expected to be the eighth active hurricane season in a row.
Where is Hurricane Lee now?
As of 5pm Tuesday, wind speeds were 115 mph. This puts it above the threshold of Category 3 strength, making it a major hurricane. It was about 535 miles south of Bermuda and was moving northwest at 7 mph.
It hovered around the same strength for about 36 hours. While it can typically intensify, thanks to record-warm sea surface temperatures in the mid- to upper 80s, the hurricane has factors working against it. This includes annoying winds at the upper level that can shut down circulation and dry air that sometimes runs into circulation.
However, the greatest obstacles to enhancing Li’s strength were the changes that occurred in his internal structure. Generally, a tornado is centered around the eyewall, or in a cake of intense winds and long thunderstorms surrounding its eye. However, in Lee’s case, several partial or chaotic “eye wall replacement cycles” have appeared in the past two days. This means that the outer eye wall has formed around the degenerating inner eye wall. Each time this happens, the wind field expands but then shrinks slightly.
As long as the chaotic eye wall replacement cycles continued, Li would not be able to strengthen beyond his current density.
Lee is expected to maintain its Category 3 strength through Wednesday morning and then slowly weaken. Its large size (80 miles across) will allow it to push up cold ocean water from below, accelerating its downturn. It will also likely start to see the effects of strong winds at high altitudes, which will negatively affect its structure.
Lee is expected to be directed between a force field-like ridge of high pressure rotating clockwise over the Atlantic Ocean, and an approaching low-pressure trough rotating counterclockwise over the eastern United States. There is an increased possibility for the trough to catch Lee and drag him west. This increases the risk of impacts on the ground.
Where influences can be expected from me
Bermuda We can expect a few hours of tropical storm conditions late Thursday into early Friday as Lee’s center passes about 200 miles to the west. The weather will likely be bad, with heavy rain and gusts of 35 to 50 mph. As of mid-morning Tuesday, a Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for Bermuda.
Southern New England It may be surrounded by some western rain bands in Lee on Saturday, with wind gusts of 40 mph or more possible on outer Cape Cod. There will be a risk of high rip current. There will be greater impacts if Lee’s projected path continues to shift westward.
Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia You may experience more direct impacts, with winds in the upper tropical storm range to lower hurricane range. Storms, especially east of the center of Lee, could affect Nova Scotia. Heavy rain or even flooding can also be a problem, and rip currents and rough waves are guarantees.
By then, Lee is expected to begin transitioning into a non-tropical system, drawing energy from the jet stream. This means that its winds will weaken but the general wind field will expand. This increases the risk of a storm in Canada. Water may reach 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels.