SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Lee churned through open waters Thursday, becoming, forecasters warned, the first Category 5 storm of the Atlantic season.
Lee was not expected to make landfall on the planned path that would take it near the northeastern Caribbean, although forecasters said tropical storm conditions were possible on some islands. Meteorologists said it was too early to provide details about possible rainfall and wind gusts.
The Category 5 hurricane was located about 705 miles (1,130 kilometers) east of the Northern Leeward Islands. Winds were blowing up to 160 miles per hour (257 kilometers per hour) and moving west-northwest at a speed of 14 miles per hour (22 km/h).
The storm was expected to strengthen late Thursday and remain a major hurricane into next week.
“Lee continues to strengthen at an exceptional rate,” the National Hurricane Center said.
According to the White House, US President Joe Biden on Thursday received the hurricane’s latest trajectory and details of ongoing preparations from the US Federal Emergency Management Agency, which sent unidentified forces to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
Life-threatening surf was expected to reach the Lesser Antilles on Friday and reach the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Bahamas and Bermuda this weekend, the center said.
“We’ll see waves between 10 and 15 feet (3 and 5 meters), so we don’t want anyone on the beaches,” said Ernesto Morales of the National Weather Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The National Hurricane Center said dangerous surf and rip currents were forecast for most of the U.S. East Coast starting Sunday.
Lee is the twelfth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30 and peaks in September.
The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration in August forecast between 14 and 21 named storms this season, with six to 11 expected to become hurricanes and two to five potentially developing into major hurricanes.
In the Pacific, Hurricane Jova raged as a Category 4 storm through open waters far from the southwest coast of Mexico. It posed no threat to the country.
It was located about 600 miles (965 kilometers) southwest of the southern tip of Baja, California, moving at a speed of 17 miles per hour (28 km/h) and with winds of up to 145 miles per hour (230 km/h). from west to northwest. The storm is expected to weaken starting late Thursday.
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