September 23, 2023

By Mary Gilbert | CNN

Lee quickly intensified into a robust tropical storm Wednesday because it tracks over record-warm ocean waters and an atmosphere favorable for strengthening, which can gasoline the storm to close Class-5 energy because it approaches the japanese Caribbean.

Lee was a robust tropical storm late Wednesday morning with sustained winds of 70 mph and better gusts, the Nationwide Hurricane Heart reported, positioned 1,200 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands. Lee’s sustained winds strengthened by 35 mph within the 24 hours after it fashioned as a tropical melancholy Tuesday morning.

Much more fast intensification – outlined as a rise in wind speeds of no less than 35 mph in 24 hours or much less – is predicted within the coming days. The forecast monitor takes the hurricane throughout a number of the warmest waters within the Atlantic Ocean and thru comparatively calm upper-level winds, which can enable Lee to blow up in energy.

“All of the elements are in place for the storm to actually intensify,” Jason Dunion, Director of NOAA’s Hurricane Subject Program, informed CNN.

By Friday evening, Lee is predicted to be a monstrous Class 4 hurricane with sustained wind speeds of 150 mph.

The waters within the Atlantic usually are not fairly as heat because the steamy circumstances within the Gulf of Mexico, which gave rise to Hurricane Idalia final week. Nonetheless, sea-surface temperatures throughout the portion of the Atlantic Ocean that Lee is ready to trace by are nonetheless a staggering 2 levels Celsius (3.6 levels Fahrenheit) above regular after rising to “far above report ranges” this summer season, in accordance David Zierden, Florida’s state climatologist.

“To get to Class 4 or 5 depth the atmosphere must be almost excellent, which it seems to be like is the forecast for Lee,” Zierden informed CNN.

Lee’s most forecast depth of 150 mph is equal to the strongest storm within the Atlantic basin this season – Hurricane Franklin – and stronger than any storm to date within the japanese Pacific. If Lee tops 150 mph, will probably be essentially the most highly effective hurricane to roam both basin this 12 months.

That forecast can also be simply 7 mph shy of Class 5.

“This storm positively has the potential to be a Class 5,” Dunion stated, including that nothing in Lee’s forecast path is predicted to hinder the storm’s improvement main as much as the weekend.

The final Class 5 hurricane to roam the Atlantic basin was 2022’s Hurricane Ian. Earlier than that, 2019’s Dorian and Lorenzo had been the newest hurricanes to realize the feat. Solely 39 Class 5 hurricanes have occurred since 1924, in response to knowledge from NOAA.

Lee’s potential path brings hazard to islands this weekend

Lee’s energy will finally dictate the depth and attain of the cyclone’s impacts. Lee will begin to influence the Lesser Antilles – together with the Leeward and Windward islands – on Friday. Swells from the cyclone are more likely to trigger life-threatening surf and rip present circumstances throughout islands like Barbados, Martinique, St. Lucia and the US and British Virgin Islands.

Any shifts alongside Lee’s monitor because it nears the Leeward Islands would improve the specter of extra direct impacts like heavy rainfall and powerful winds. Anybody within the japanese Caribbean – together with the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola – in addition to the Bahamas might want to hold a detailed eye on the forecast headed into the weekend.

It’s too quickly to know whether or not this method will immediately influence the US mainland, however even when the hurricane stays off the coast, harmful surf and rip currents might as soon as once more threaten the Japanese Seaboard. One particular person was killed in a rip present in New Jersey over the Labor Day weekend.

Lee will ramp up in depth because the the height of the Atlantic hurricane season approaches. Sunday, September 10, is the climatological peak of Atlantic hurricane season, when the basin is at its busiest on common. A flurry of tropical exercise surrounding this date is just not out of the bizarre, however it may flip hazardous quick.

The 2023 Atlantic season has already been busy: It’s tracking above average for a variety of completely different metrics together with variety of named storms, variety of hurricanes and variety of main hurricanes, in response to Philip Klotzbach a analysis scientist at Colorado State College.