Hurricane Lee is charging through open waters in the Atlantic Ocean on its way towards the Caribbean as the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) warns that the storm could bring life-threatening swells and strong winds to the region.
In its latest advisory on Thursday morning, the NHC reported that Lee had maximum sustained winds of 165 kilometres per hour (105 miles per hour) and was expected to become a major hurricane later in the day.
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“Large ocean swells [are] likely to reach Lesser Antilles, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico through the weekend,” the agency said.
“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”
According to the National Weather Service in San Juan, the seas around Puerto Rico could rise by 3.7m (12ft).
“There is still too much uncertainty regarding rainfall and possible wind impacts as Lee is forecast to pass a couple hundred miles north of the islands,” it said.
— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) September 7, 2023
The storm was located about 1,400km (870 miles) east of the northern Leeward Islands.
Lee is the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.
The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration in the United States warned in August that this year’s season would produce an above-normal number of storms.
Fourteen to 21 named storms are forecast. Of those, six to 11 could become hurricanes with two to five of them possibly becoming major hurricanes, the agency said.
Current projections show Lee not making landfall but passing just northeast of the British Virgin Islands, which is still recovering from hurricanes Maria and Irma in September 2017.
“It has the potential to become a powerhouse category 5 hurricane, the strongest hurricane of the year,” Jonathan Porter, chief meteorologist for AccuWeather, told The Associated Press news agency.