Hurricane Lee strengthens into ‘dangerous’ Category 5 storm

Swells and rip currents expected as hurricane’s core set to move north of the Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico over the weekend.

Hurricane Lee
A satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows Hurricane Lee, right, in the central tropical Atlantic Ocean [NOAA via AP]

Hurricane Lee has built up its strength to become the first Category 5 storm of the Atlantic season, with areas in the northern Caribbean bracing for swells and rip currents.

Located about 1,015km (630 miles) east of the northern Leeward Islands on Friday morning, Lee had winds of up to 270km/h (165 miles per hour), according to the National Weather Service in the United States.

The storm was moving west-northwest at 22km/h (14mph), the agency said.

Interactive_Hurricane Lee_Updated Sept 8
[Al Jazeera]

Late on Thursday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami reported that Lee had become a “dangerous” Category 5 hurricane.

In a Friday morning advisory, the NHC said hurricane-fuelled swells were expected to reach parts of the Lesser Antilles later in the day.

The swells are then expected to hit the British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, the island of Hispaniola, Turks and Caicos, Bahamas and Bermuda at the weekend.

“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. Dangerous surf and rip currents are expected to begin along most of the US East Coast beginning Sunday,” the agency said.

The storm was expected to remain a major hurricane into next week before slowing down “considerably“ over the southwestern Atlantic, according to the NHC.

US President Joe Biden on Thursday was given the hurricane’s latest trajectory and details of preparations under way by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

FEMA deployed unidentified assets to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, according to the White House.

“We will see waves between 10 and 15 feet [three and five metres], so we don’t want anyone on the beaches,” said Ernesto Morales of the National Weather Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Lee is the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 and peaks in September.

Storm Margot

Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Margot has become the 13th named storm of the season after forming on Thursday evening.

It was located some 465km (290 miles) west-northwest of the Cape Verde islands. It had winds of up to 65km/h (40mph) and was forecast to strengthen into a hurricane over the weekend. It was moving west-northwest at 28km/h (17mph) and is expected to remain over open water.

The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration in August forecasted between 14 to 21 named storms this season, with six to 11 of them expected to become hurricanes, and of those, two to five possibly developing into major hurricanes.

In the Pacific, Hurricane Jova churned through open waters far from Mexico’s southwest coast as a Category 4 storm. It posed no threat to land.

It was located about 965km (600 miles) southwest of the southern tip of Baja, California, and was moving west-northwest at 28km/h (17mph) with winds up to 230km/h (145mph). The storm is expected to weaken starting late on Thursday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies