JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hurricane Lee strengthened rapidly into a Category 2 storm Thursday and is forecast to become a major hurricane before the end of the day.
At 11 a.m. Thursday the center of Hurricane Lee was located near latitude 16.4 North, longitude 50.0 West, about 870 miles east of the Northern Leeward Islands.
There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect, but interests in the northern Leeward Islands should monitor the progress of Lee.
Lee picked up speed and is now moving toward the west-northwest near 15 mph and this motion is expected to continue through Friday. A slower motion toward the west-northwest is forecast over the weekend.
On the forecast track, the core of Lee will move north of the northern Leeward Islands during the next few days. Maximum sustained winds have quickly increased to near 105 mph with higher gusts, making Lee a Category 2 storm.
Rapid intensification is expected Thursday, and Lee is forecast to remain a very strong major hurricane through the weekend.
A Category 1 storm will produce some damage from very dangerous winds between 74 mph and 95 p.m. A Category 2 hurricane has winds between 96 mph and 110 mph that can create extensive damage. Category 3 is considered a major hurricane, with winds of 111 to 129 mph, which will cause devastating damage. Category 4 (winds 130 mph-156 mph) is considered a catastrophic storm that can cause widespread damage and cause an area to be uninhabitable for weeks or months, NHC said.
Lee’s hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 90 miles.
The estimated minimum central pressure is 983 mb.
Based on the current track, we are not anticipating any tropical effects aside from Rip Currents in what will be increasing tropical waves early next week.