Hurricane Lee strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane late Thursday, the National Hurricane Center said, after rapidly intensifying over the previous 24 hours as it continued to move over the warm waters of the Atlantic ocean.
On Thursday night, Hurricane Lee’s maximum sustained wind speeds had intensified to 160 mph—nearly double that of 85 mph reported earlier that day.
According to the National Hurricane Center’s advisory, the hurricane will continue to intensify overnight and remain a “major hurricane” until early next week.
The hurricane is expected to “pass well to the north” major landmasses in the Western Atlantic, including northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the NHC forecasts.
Lee is still expected to cause “dangerous beach conditions” in the region through early next week.
Ocean swells generated by the hurricane are expected to reach the Lesser Antilles, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and Bermuda over the weekend.
The NHC also warned of “dangerous surf and rip currents” affecting most of the U.S. East Coast starting from Monday.
157 mph. That is the minimum sustained wind speed of hurricanes classified as Category 5, under the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. According to the NHC, a category 5 storm can destroy a “high percentage of framed homes” in its path, something unlikely to happen with Lee due to the fact that it has avoided all major land masses in its vicinity.
The NHC said Friday morning: “It is way too soon to know what level of impacts, if any, Lee might have along the U.S. East Coast, Atlantic Canada, or Bermuda late next week, particularly since the hurricane is expected to slow down considerably over the southwestern Atlantic.”
Hurricane Lee Strengthens To Cat. 4 At ‘Exceptional Rate’—Will Become Rare Cat. 5 Within Hours, Forecasters Say (Forbes)