SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (WFLA) — Hurricane Lee whipped up waves of more than 15 feet on Monday as the Category 3 storm cranked through open waters just north of the Caribbean region.
The storm is not expected to make landfall this week, although forecasters said residents of New England and nearby areas should keep a close eye on Lee, which was predicted to slowly turn northward later in the coming days.
The storm was located about 555 miles south of Bermuda, according to the National Hurricane Center. It had maximum sustained winds of 115 mphand was moving northwest at 6 mph.
The center said Lee is likely to pass just west of Bermuda late Thursday and Friday and be located offshore of the mid-Atlantic states and New England by the end of the week.
“Although Lee is expected to weaken later in the week, it is expected to significantly increase in size and hazards will extend well away from the storm center,” the agency said.
Bermuda could experience wind, rain and high surf, but “it is too soon to determine the specific timing and level of those impacts,” the center said.
A high surf advisory was in effect for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with the National Weather Service warning of breaking waves of up to 15 feet (5 meters) for north and east-facing beaches.
The National Hurricane Center also warned of dangerous surf and rip currents for most of the U.S. East Coast this week, but what the hurricane might do beyond that is unclear.
“It remains too soon to know what level of additional impacts Lee might have along the northeast U.S. coast and Atlantic Canada late this week and this weekend, however, wind and rainfall hazards will likely extend well away from the center as Lee grows in size,” the center said.
Lee strengthened from a Category 1 storm to Category 5 last week in the span of 24 hours before weakening slightly.
Lee is the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 and peaked on Sunday.
In August, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration updated its forecast and doubled the chance to 60% for an above-normal hurricane system. Between 14 and 21 named storms are forecast, with six to 11 predicted to strengthen into hurricanes. Of those, two to five are forecast to become major hurricanes — storms that are in Categories 3, 4 or 5.
Also swirling in the open Atlantic was Hurricane Margot, which became a Category 1 storm Monday afternoon. The fifth hurricane of the season was located nearly 935 miles southwest of the Azores. It had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and was moving north at 13mph. It was forecast to remain over open waters.
Area of interest
Meteorologists are watching two broad areas of low pressure over the eastern tropical Atlantic that are producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms.
The lows are forecast to merge in a few days and the combined system is likely to become a tropical depression by this weekend, the NHC said.
The system will move west-northwest or northwestward at about 15 mph across the central tropical Atlantic.
The system has a 70 percent chance of formation over the next seven days.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.