Hurricane Lee intensified into a Category 5 storm Friday with winds nearing 165 miles per hour as it approaches just north of the eastern Caribbean, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Lee is the season’s first Category 5 storm, the highest label, with winds forecasted to peak at just under 180 miles per hour by early Friday afternoon. Those speeds would put it in the record books as about the ninth strongest hurricane in recorded history.
While the storm is not expected to make landfall in the Caribbean, the National Hurricane Center warned dangerous ocean conditions are likely. That can include waves of up to 15 feet for islands including Puerto Rico.
Early forecasts estimate that the storm will turn north by early next week. White it is projected to avoid the U.S. East Coast, it could potentially hit Bermuda or even Nova Scotia next week as it travels northwward. However, meteorologists have little confidence in those long-distance forecasts.
“It is way too soon to know what level of impacts, if any, Lee might have along the U.S. East Coast, Atlantic Canada, or Bermuda late next week, particularly since the hurricane is expected to slow down considerably over the southwest Atlantic,” the center warned.
Either way, dangerous ocean conditions like rip currents are anticipated along most of the U.S. coast this week starting Sunday because of the powerful storm, the center said.
In preparation for the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has deployed assets to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands amid fears of dangerous waves, The Associated Press reported.
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