Forecasters predict that Hurricane Lee, currently swirling in the Atlantic, will intensify into a major Category 4 hurricane by early Friday.
Lee strengthened from a tropical storm into a Category 1 hurricane Wednesday.
The National Hurricane Center warned the storm system on Thursday was going to “rapidly intensify” — meaning maximum winds would surge 35 mph in 24 hours or less — and become an “extremely dangerous major hurricane” by early Friday.
Lee was churning about 965 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph as of 5 a.m. ET Thursday, the National Weather said in a public advisory.
Lee’s forecast to become a very powerful Category 4 hurricane with winds potentially as high as 155 mph, fueled by warm ocean water. A “major hurricane” is a storm of Category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
While there’s no direct threat of landfall so far, the weather service warned that the storm will create large swells likely to reach Lesser Antilles Friday, and the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this weekend.
Lee is currently moving west, northwest at 13 mph and will continue on this track with a gradual slowdown in forward speed.
The storm’s long-term track is still uncertain but most tropical models curve the hurricane to the north, possibly tracking close to Bermuda or between Bermuda and the U.S. East Coast next week.