Hurricane Lee has built up its strength to become the first Category 5 storm of the Atlantic season, with areas in the north Caribbean bracing for swells and rip currents.
Located about 1,135km (705 miles) east of the northern Leeward Islands, Lee had winds of up to 260km/h (160 miles per hour) and was moving west-northwest at 22km/h (14 miles per hour), according to the United States National Weather Service.“Lee has become a dangerous category 5 hurricane and further strengthening is forecast overnight,” the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest update late on Thursday.
The hurricane’s core is expected to move north of the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico over the weekend and early next week, the NHC added.
“Dangerous surf and life-threatening rip currents are likely in the northern Leeward Islands beginning Friday,” the tracker said, adding that such conditions will also affect Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Bermuda through the weekend.
The storm was expected to remain a major hurricane into next week and was expected to slow 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, which 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.
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 (40 miles per hour) and was forecast to strengthen into a hurricane over the weekend. It was moving west-northwest at 28km/h (17 miles per hour) and is expected to remain over open water.