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Hurricane Lee, now a Category 4, forecast to remain powerful into next week

Hurricane Lee weakened slightly to a Category 4 hurricane Friday morning, one day after it exploded from a Category 1 to a dangerous Category 5, but is still forecast to remain a powerful storm into next week.

Lee’s rapid intensification Thursday was rare — maximum sustained winds doubled from 80 mph to 165 mph in a matter of 24 hours.

Lee is now swirling about 570 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in an 11 a.m. ET advisory. It mildly weakened from its Category 5 status, recorded at 5 a.m. ET Friday.

The hurricane is moving west, northwest at 13 mph, and is forecast to pass to the north of the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico over the weekend and into early next week. 

“Some fluctuations in intensity are likely over the next few days, however Lee is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through early next week,” the advisory said. No coastal watches or warnings are currently in effect. 

Lee will create swells that are forecast to reach portions of the Lesser Antilles on Friday and reach the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and Bermuda during the weekend. 

“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” the advisory said.

Lee will bring high surf and dangerous rip currents to the U.S. as early as Sunday in the south, then up the eastern seaboard into next week.

There is still some uncertainty about Lee’s exact path as it depends on steering currents. However, models show it’s headed toward Bermuda and then to the north.

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