Hurricane Lee has turned northwestward, beginning its long-awaited arc northward, away from Florida, and is expected to run parallel to the U.S. East Coast over the coming days as it accelerates and expands, the National Hurricane Center said late Tuesday afternoon.
The Atlantic Basin is active with three other systems.
Hurricane Margot is expected to remain a Category 1 storm, but its path will turn northwest and north at the end of the week. Farther east, two tropical waves near Africa are in the process of merging into one system that will likely form into a tropical depression by the end of the week as it moves northwest toward the central tropical Atlantic.
Although forecasters expected the hurricane to weaken slightly as it headed north, hurricane hunter planes on Tuesday found that its width had increased dramatically, strengthening its impact area. The storm will be parallel to the east coast of the United States and remain west of Bermuda.
The NHC describes Lee as a “very large hurricane” whose hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles from the center and tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 240 miles.
The storm’s increased wind field is expected to impact Bermuda on Thursday, with Lee expected to turn north and move faster, prompting the Bermuda Weather Service to issue a tropical storm watch. The outer Lee Ranges could bring 1 to 2 inches of rain to the island.
Long Island and southern New England could see tropical storm force winds arrive early Friday.
The hurricane center’s forecast extends into Sunday morning, at which time the storm may have dissipated into a tropical storm, making landfall likely in an area including coastal Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, Lee was about 515 miles southwest of Bermuda, moving northwest at 7 mph and maintaining maximum sustained winds of 115 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Last week, Lee experienced exceptionally rapid intensification, jumping from a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph early Thursday to a dangerous Category 5 storm with 165 mph sustained winds within 24 hours. Only an hour.
The hurricane center said the easternmost islands of the Caribbean Sea, the British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and Bermuda are experiencing lee waves as of Tuesday night.
Forecasters said “dangerous surf and rip currents” were already impacting parts of the southeastern U.S. coast Tuesday night, and conditions were expected to move north along much of the coast and into Atlantic Canada in the next few days.
The weather service added that South Florida beaches will see “deteriorating beach and boating conditions” by the middle of this week with potentially deadly rip currents.
As the lee builds up gradually over the week, there may be some minor beach erosion from violent waves hitting the beach at high tide.
Lee is expected to move above the remaining cold sea temperatures in the wake of Hurricane Franklin later in the week. That, combined with wind shear and dry air, is expected to steadily weaken Lee late this week and throughout the weekend, forecasters said.
Lee is the fourth major Atlantic hurricane of the 2023 season, behind Don, Franklin, and Idalia, and the third major hurricane, i.e. Category 3 or higher. Franklin and Idalia were major hurricanes.
Strengthened Hurricane Margot was a Category 1 hurricane on Tuesday, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. Hurricane winds extend outward up to 80 miles from the center of Margot and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 265 miles.
After Friday, Margot’s path became “extraordinarily uncertain,” and this path will determine whether the system will strengthen or weaken.
“Depending on the exact development and path of Margot, it could maintain its intensity for a little longer, or quickly begin to move into the remainder of the depression,” forecasters said.
Forecasters are also monitoring two disturbances in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean that are in the process of merging. After they come together in the next few days, the system will move west-northwest or northwestward across the central Atlantic Ocean.
As of 8 p.m., the Hurricane Center said it has an 80% chance of developing into a tropical depression in the next seven days and a 30% chance in the next 48 hours.
The season officially runs until November 30th. The next storm will be named Nigel.
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