Energy & Environment

Tropical Storm Lee strengthens into a hurricane

Tropical Storm Lee strengthened into a hurricane early Wednesday night as it moved through the Atlantic Ocean toward the northeast Caribbean. 

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the storm was located in the Atlantic Ocean about 1,130 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands, a group of islands where the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean meet, the National Hurricane Center said. 

Forecasters said the storm is moving toward the west-northwest at a speed of around 14 mph with winds up to 75 mph.

The storm is on a path of “rapid strengthening” into a major hurricane sometime in the next two days, according to the center, which considers a hurricane “major” when the sustained winds within the storm reach 111 mph or higher, matching a Category 3 or higher storm. 

By early Saturday, the storm is likely to intensify into an “extremely dangerous major hurricane,” the National Hurricane Center said. 

What path the hurricane will take is unclear. Forecasters said Wednesday it is too soon to determine the exact location and magnitude of its possible impacts. 

The storm is not expected to make landfall but forecasters expect it will bring life-threatening surf and rip current conditions in parts of the Lesser Antilles, a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea. 

Tropical-storm force winds over the weekend are also expected to hit the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Puerto Rico and the Leeward Islands.  

As of Wednesday night, there are no coastal watches or warnings in effect, though residents in the northern Leeward Islands are advised to monitor the progress of the storm. 

“Lee continues to strengthen at a quick pace,” the center said, noting the storm was moving over very warm water and in a moist environment.

Lee comes on the heels of Hurricane Idalia, which slammed Florida’s Big Bend region and parts of southeast Georgia and the Carolinas. 

Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned of an “above-normal” level of Atlantic hurricane activities due to certain ocean and atmospheric conditions, including the record-warm sea surface temperatures. The agency forecast 14 to 21 named storms, six to 11 hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes.