Hurricane Lee swept through open waters on Thursday as forecasters warned it could become the first Category 5 storm of the Atlantic season.
Lee is not expected to make landfall as it follows a forecast track that will take it near the northeast Caribbean, although forecasters have said tropical storm conditions are possible on some islands. Meteorologists said it was too early to provide details on potential rainfall and gusty winds.
The Category 4 hurricane was about 1,260 kilometers east of the northern Leeward Islands. It was blowing winds of up to 215 kilometers per hour and moving west-northwest at 24 km/h.
The storm is expected to become even more powerful Thursday evening and remain a major hurricane through next week.
“Lee continues to strengthen at an exceptional rate,” the National Hurricane Center said.
US President Joe Biden received the hurricane’s latest track and details of ongoing preparations Thursday from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has deployed unidentified assets to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, according to the White House.
Life-threatening waves are expected to hit the Lesser Antilles on Friday and reach the British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Bahamas and Bermuda this weekend, the center said.
“We will see waves between 3 and 5 meters, so we don’t want anyone on the beaches anymore,” said Ernesto Morales of the National Weather Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The National Hurricane Center said dangerous surf and rip currents were forecast for much of the US East Coast starting Sunday.
Lee is the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 and peaks in September.
Tropical Storm Margot became the 13th named storm after forming on Thursday evening. It was about 465 kilometers west-northwest of the Cape Verde Islands. There were winds of up to 65 km/h and they were expected to develop into a hurricane over the weekend. It was moving west-northwest at 28 km/h and was expected to stay above open water.
In August, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast 14 to 21 named storms this season, of which six to 11 are expected to develop into hurricanes, and of those, two to five could develop into major hurricanes.
In the Pacific, Hurricane Jova moved through open water away from the southwest coast of Mexico as a Category 4 storm. It posed no threat to land.
It was about 965 kilometers southwest of the southern tip of Baja California and was moving west-northwest at 28 km/h with winds up to 230 km/h. The storm is expected to weaken from Thursday evening.