Hurricane Lee to become a powerful Category 4 storm near Caribbean

Tropical Storm Lee, which formed over the Atlantic Ocean on Tuesday, is expected to rapidly intensify into an extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane by the weekend, according to the US National Hurricane Center (NHC). The storm could pose a threat to the Caribbean islands and the Bahamas, where many people are still recovering from the devastating impacts of Hurricane Idalia earlier this month.

Lee’s forecast and potential impacts

As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, Lee was located about 1,200 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, the eastern boundary of the Caribbean. The storm was moving west-northwest at 14 mph with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph, just below the threshold for a Category 1 hurricane. The NHC said Lee is expected to become a hurricane later on Wednesday and reach major hurricane status (Category 3 or higher) by Friday.

Hurricane Lee to become a powerful Category 4 storm near Caribbean
Hurricane Lee to become a powerful Category 4 storm near Caribbean

The NHC’s latest forecast discussion said Lee’s maximum sustained winds could eventually reach up to 150 mph, putting it at the higher end of the Category 4 range. This would make Lee a very powerful and dangerous hurricane, capable of causing catastrophic damage if it makes landfall. The NHC warned that “it is becoming a question of when and not if” Lee will undergo “explosive intensification” as it moves over abnormally warm water and encounters favorable atmospheric conditions.

The NHC said it is too early to determine the exact location and magnitude of Lee’s possible impacts, but interests in the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Bahamas and Florida should monitor the progress of the storm closely. The current cone of uncertainty, which indicates the probable path of the eye of the storm, sits just north of Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, but it could change in the coming days as new data becomes available.

The NHC advised residents in these areas to review their hurricane preparedness plans and have their supplies ready in case they need to evacuate or shelter in place. Lee could bring strong winds, heavy rain, storm surge and flooding to some parts of the Caribbean and the Bahamas by the weekend or early next week.

Lee’s comparison to other hurricanes

Lee is the 12th named storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, which is forecast to be more active than average. The peak of the season is still a week away, but already four hurricanes have formed, including two major ones: Franklin and Idalia. Franklin was a Category 4 hurricane that hit Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula in August, causing widespread damage and power outages. Idalia was a Category 5 hurricane that slammed into Florida earlier this month, destroying homes and infrastructure and leaving millions without electricity.

Lee could become the third major hurricane of the season and potentially reach Category 5 strength, which is reserved for storms with winds of 157 mph or higher. Only four Atlantic hurricanes have ever reached this intensity in September: David (1979), Gilbert (1988), Ivan (2004) and Maria (2017). All of them caused severe destruction and fatalities in the Caribbean and elsewhere.

The impact of climate change on the frequency of tropical storms is still unclear, but increased sea surface temperatures warm the air above and make more energy available to drive hurricanes. As a result, they are likely to be more intense with more extreme rainfall.

How to stay informed and safe

The NHC is the official source of information and forecasts for tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic basin. The NHC provides regular updates on its website (1

) and social media platforms (2 and 3). The NHC also issues watches and warnings for specific areas that are at risk of tropical storm or hurricane conditions.

The National Weather Service (NWS) is another reliable source of weather information and alerts for different regions in the US. The NWS has local offices that provide detailed forecasts and advisories for their areas of responsibility. The NWS also operates a network of weather radars that can track storms and precipitation in real time. The NWS website (4) and social media accounts ([5] and [6]) offer useful resources and tips for staying safe during hurricanes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is responsible for coordinating disaster response and recovery efforts in the US. FEMA provides assistance to individuals and communities affected by disasters such as hurricanes. FEMA also offers guidance on how to prepare for emergencies and protect yourself and your property from hazards. The FEMA website ([7]) and mobile app ([8]) have valuable information and tools for disaster survivors and applicants.

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