WEATHER

Hurricane Lee will create hazardous conditions along the East Coast

Sep 9, 2023, 9:39 PM

(CNN) — Hurricane Lee remains hundreds of miles east of the Caribbean late Saturday, yet forecasters say the storm’s effects may have an impact on the US Atlantic seaboard as early as this weekend.

Lee was 285 miles northeast of the northern Leeward Islands as of 11 p.m. ET Saturday, whipping up maximum sustained winds of 105 mph, according to the US National Hurricane Center. The Category 2 hurricane, which earlier reached Category 5 status, is expected to maintain its strength Saturday and restrengthen over the weekend.

It’s still too early to determine whether the core of the storm will directly impact the US mainland, but Lee is expected to rip currents and large waves to most of the East Coast of the United States on Sunday and Monday and worsen through the week, the hurricane center said.

“Hazardous beach conditions expected to develop around the western Atlantic through next week,” the hurricane center said Saturday night.

Caribbean islands will be similarly impacted by the storm as it moves slowly northwest through the Atlantic. Lee is expected to pass “well to the north” of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the northern Leeward Islands, forecasters said.

“Swells generated by Lee are affecting portions of the Lesser Antilles,” the hurricane center warned Friday night. The British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and Bermuda will also face swells this weekend that can bring life-threatening surf and rip conditions.

The National Weather Service office in San Juan, Puerto Rico, said waves breaking at 6 to 10 feet were forecast for Sunday. Larger waves were expected next week along east- and north-facing beaches.

“Beach erosion and coastal flooding is possible,” the office posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

 

Lee enters rare company

 

Lee hit a rare strength that few storms have ever achieved. Only 2% of storms in the Atlantic reach Category 5 strength, according to NOAA’s hurricane database. Including Lee, only 40 Category 5 hurricanes have roamed the Atlantic since 1924.

Lee, which was a Category 1 storm Thursday, intensified with exceptional speed in warm ocean waters, more than doubling its wind speeds to 165 mph in just a day.

The storm’s winds increased by 85 mph in a 24-hour period, which tied it with Hurricane Matthew for the third-fastest rapid intensification in the Atlantic, according to NOAA research meteorologist John Kaplan. The monstrous hurricane struck Haiti in 2016, killing hundreds in the Caribbean nation while also wreaking havoc on parts of the US Southeast.

Category 5 is the highest level on the hurricane wind speed scale and has no maximum point. Hurricanes hit this level when their sustained winds reach 157 mph or higher. A 165-mph storm like Lee is in the same category as Hurricane Allen, the Atlantic’s strongest hurricane on record, which topped out at 190 mph in 1980.

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

Sea-surface temperatures across the portion of the Atlantic Ocean that Lee is tracking through are a staggering 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above normal after rising to “far above record levels” this summer, according to David Zierden, Florida’s state climatologist.

Reaching Category 5 strength has become more common over the last decade. Lee is the 8th Category 5 since 2016, meaning 20% of these exceptionally powerful hurricanes on record in NOAA’s hurricane database have come in the last seven years.

The Atlantic is not the only ocean to have spawned a monster storm in 2023. All seven ocean basins where tropical cyclones can form have had a storm reach Category 5 strength so far this year, including Hurricane Jova, which reached Category 5 status in the eastern Pacific earlier this week.

 

How close will Hurricane Lee get to the US?

 

Computer model trends for Lee have shown the hurricane taking a turn to the north early next week. But exactly when that turn occurs and how far west Lee will manage to track by then will play a huge role in how close it gets to the US.

Several steering factors at the surface and upper levels of the atmosphere will determine how close Lee will get to the East Coast.

An area of high pressure over the Atlantic, known as the Bermuda High, will have a major influence on how quickly Lee turns. The Bermuda High is expected to remain very strong into the weekend, which will keep Lee on its current west-northwestward track and slow it down a bit.

As the high pressure weakens next week it will allow Lee to start moving northward.

Once that turn to the north occurs, the position of the jet stream – strong upper-level winds that can change the direction of a hurricane’s path – will influence how closely Lee is steered to the US.

Scenario: Out to Sea

Lee could make a quick turn to the north early next week if high pressure weakens significantly.

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

Scenario: Close to East Coast

Lee could make a slower turn to the north because the high pressure remains robust, and the jet stream sets up farther inland over the Eastern US. This scenario would leave portions of the East Coast, mainly north of the Carolinas, vulnerable to a much closer approach from Lee.

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


The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Weather

FILE PHOTO (Getty Images)...

Gerald Herbert and Kevin McGill, Associated Press

Storms bring floods and damaging wind across the South; 1 dead in Mississippi

Severe storms blamed for a death in Mississippi spawned a tornado that demolished buildings in one Louisiana city Wednesday.

4 days ago

Green grass and wildflowers grow as a cyclist rides on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail in the foothi...

Carter Williams

Salt Lake City hits 1st 80-degree day of year, ties 88-year-old record

Utah's capital tied an 88-year-old temperature record on Friday as the high temperature at Salt Lake City International Airport surpassed 80 degrees for the first time this year.

5 days ago

People watch the total solar eclipse in Madras, Oregon, in August 2017. April’s total solar eclip...

Mary Gilbert, CNN Meteorologist

While you watch the eclipse, you’ll also be able to feel it

On Monday, April 8, a total solar eclipse will alter weather conditions on the Earth’s surface while the astronomical marvel unfolds in the sky.

10 days ago

A still from a video of wildfires with heavy smoke moving through Woodward County, Oklahoma, amidst...

Dalia Faheid, CNN

Hurricane-force winds and dry conditions combine to fuel critical fire threat in Central US

Intense winds across the Central United States this weekend are fueling critical fire danger, leaving roads closed and thousands without power in some areas.

10 days ago

A Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until until Monday at 5 a.m. for much of the state. Portio...

Carlysle Price

Strong weekend winds expected to bring snow to Utah’s mountains

This weekend strong southerly winds are expected to blow in a spring cold front from California.

12 days ago

A skier walks to the lift in the newly fallen snow at Snowbird Ski Resort on Feb. 7. A storm is for...

Carter Williams, KSL.com

UPDATE: Winds charge into Utah ahead of storm expected to bring snow to Utah’s mountains

Utah passed its average snowpack collection peak earlier this week, but at least one more storm will tack onto what has already been an above-average year.

12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

Hurricane Lee will create hazardous conditions along the East Coast