Hurricane Lee’s path is unclear, but the East Coast could see some impacts this weekend with dangerous rip currents and large waves


Hurricane Lee maintained major hurricane status Friday evening, as the indirect – but serious – effects of the powerful storm were expected to reach East Coast waters early this weekend.

The hurricane, now a Category 3 storm that briefly strengthened to a rare Category 5 in the Atlantic, is carrying maximum damaging winds of 115 mph and is located about 440 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands as of 11 p.m. EDT on Friday.

“Some fluctuations in intensity are likely over the next few days, but Lee is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through early next week,” the National Hurricane Center said.

It’s too early to tell if this system will directly impact the U.S. mainland, but the storm will create dangerous coastal conditions such as rip currents and large waves along the East Coast as soon as Sunday regardless of its final path.

Lee, which was a Category 1 storm on Thursday, strengthened exceptionally quickly in warm ocean waters, doubling its winds to 165 mph in just one day.

The storm’s winds increased by 85 mph in 24 hours, tying it with Hurricane Matthew for the third-fastest rapid intensification in the Atlantic, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research meteorologist John Kaplan. A monster hurricane struck Haiti in 2016, killing hundreds in the Caribbean nation, while also wreaking havoc in parts of the southeastern United States.

Lee’s center will pass north of the Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this weekend and into early next week. Tropical storm conditions, life-threatening waves and rip currents could occur on some of these islands over the weekend.

He achieved for me a rare strength that few storms have ever achieved. Only 2% of storms in the Atlantic reach Category 5, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) hurricane database. Including Lee, only 40 Category 5 hurricanes have crossed the Atlantic since 1924.

Category 5 is the highest level on the hurricane wind speed scale There is no maximum point. Hurricanes reach this level when they have sustained winds 157 mph or higher. A 165 mph storm like Lee is the same category as Hurricane Allen, the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, which reached 190 mph in 1980.

Hurricanes need an ideal mix of warm water, moist air and light upper-level winds to intensify enough to reach Category 5 strength. Lee had all of those things, especially warm water amid the warmest summer on record.

Sea surface temperatures across the part of the Atlantic Ocean that Lee tracks are 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal after rising to “well above record levels” this summer, according to David Zerdin, a Florida state climatologist.

Access to Class 5 power has become more common over the past decade. Lee is the eighth Category 8 hurricane since 2016, meaning that 20% of these exceptionally strong hurricanes recorded in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) hurricane database came in the past seven years.

The Atlantic isn’t the only ocean to cause a massive storm in 2023. All seven ocean basins where tropical cyclones can form have reached Category 5 strength so far this year, including Hurricane Jova, which reached Category 5 strength in the east of the country. . Pacific earlier this week.

Lee’s computer model trends showed the hurricane making a turn to the north early next week. But exactly when this shift will take place, and how far Lee will be able to track it in the West by then, will play a big role in how close he will become to the United States.

Many orientation factors at the surface and upper levels of the atmosphere will determine how close Lee is to the East Coast.

Lee's likely path next week will be determined by multiple atmospheric factors including a strong high pressure area to the east (yellow circle) and the jet stream (silver arrows) to the west.

An area of ​​high pressure over the Atlantic Ocean, known as the Bermuda High, will have a significant impact on how quickly Lee will turn. The Bermuda High is expected to remain very strong through the end of the week, which will keep Lee on its current west-northwest track and slow down slightly.

As high pressure weakens next week, it will allow me to start moving north.

Once this northward shift occurs, the location of the jet stream — strong upper-level winds capable of changing the direction of a hurricane’s path — will affect how closely Lee is pointed toward the United States.

Scenario: Out to sea

Lee could quickly head northward early next week if high pressure weakens significantly.

If the jet stream originates along the East Coast, it will act as a barrier preventing Lee from approaching the coast. This scenario would keep Lee away from the US coast, but could bring the storm closer to Bermuda.

Track scenario: A high-pressure area (yellow circle) to the east of Lee and the jet stream (silver arrows) to the west of Lee could force the storm to track between the two, away from the US coast.

Scenario: Close to the east coast

Lee could make a slower turn to the north because high pressure remains strong and the jet stream is turning inward over the eastern United States. This scenario would leave parts of the East Coast, especially North Carolina, vulnerable to a much closer attack than Lee.

Track scenario: A high-pressure area (yellow circle) to the east of Lee and a jet stream (silver arrows) to the west of Lee could force the storm to track between the two, near the US coast.

All of these factors have yet to come into focus, and the hurricane is still at least seven days away from posing a threat to the East Coast. Any potential US influence will become more apparent as the Lee River moves west in the coming days.

(tags for translation) Accidents

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