U.S. weather forecasters say that Hurricane Lee has remained a powerful storm as of Friday,
although it’s still not clear where the system will head as it churns over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
The storm transformed into a Category 5 storm on Friday morning, but by Friday afternoon,
it weakened slightly and remained a powerful Category 4 storm with 155 mph winds.
A Category 5 storm must have 157 mph or greater winds.
Hurricane Lee is not expected to make landfall, but meteorologists warned it would generate dangerous waves of up to 15 feet across the northern coast of Puerto Rico and other nearby islands.
While Lee is on a path that would take it a couple hundred miles northeast of the Caribbean, tropical storm conditions are not forecast for the region.
“Although the hurricane is incredibly powerful, its wind field is not particularly large,”
the National Hurricane Center said in an update Friday.
The National Hurricane Center’s “cone” model only maps out a few days in advance. Its latest update shows the storm remaining a Category 3 hurricane or stronger as it approaches a portion of the Atlantic Ocean north of Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti, but directly to the east of the Bahamas.
“Starting as early as Sunday, seas and surf will build to dangerous levels along the central and northern coast of Florida and expand northward through the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts next week,” AccuWeather’s Joe Lundberg also said.
The storm is expected to strengthen and reach winds of up to 180 mph. Only seven Atlantic hurricanes have had winds of that magnitude since 1966, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. Among those was Hurricane Dorian, which pummeled the northern Bahamas in 2019 as a Category 5 storm, hovering over small islands for about two days.
The National Hurricane Center said dangerous surf and rip currents were forecast for most of the U.S. East Coast starting Sunday, but that it did not have further details of what else the storm might unleash.
“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,” the center added. “Some fluctuations in intensity are likely over the next few days, however Lee is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through early next week,” it continued
Lee is the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June