Tropical Storm Lee, currently brewing in the Atlantic Ocean, is poised to undergo rapid intensification, transforming into a major hurricane boasting winds exceeding 145 mph. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a stark advisory, indicating the imminent escalation of this weather system into a formidable Category 4 “major hurricane.”
As of the latest update, Tropical Storm Lee has sustained winds of 45 mph and is advancing toward the Leeward Islands. The prospect of rapid intensification is described as a matter of “when and not if” in the advisory. This marks a noteworthy increase of 5 mph from the NHC’s initial assessment earlier in the day.
The driving force behind this uptick in wind speed is the unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic’s vicinity, east of the Lesser Antilles. These temperatures are akin to those typically observed in the Gulf of Mexico, significantly warmer than the surrounding ocean. This heat provides the ideal fuel for tropical storms to intensify rapidly.
Despite the relatively early stage of its development and its remote location in the Atlantic, this forecast of rapid strengthening is an unusual occurrence. However, predicting the exact trajectory of the storm remains challenging at this stage.
Many of the long-range models anticipate that Tropical Storm Lee will eventually veer northward, skirting the Caribbean and staying clear of the United States coastline. While these models are generally reliable, it’s important to remember that they are not infallible. The 2017 Hurricane Irma, for example, was expected to follow a similar path but instead made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast.
Tropical Storm Lee marks the 13th named storm of what has been an above-average Atlantic hurricane season. According to hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, only four other years on record have witnessed 13 or more Atlantic named storms by September 5: 2005, 2011, 2012, and 2020.
This impending transformation of Tropical Storm Lee into an “extremely dangerous” hurricane is a situation that requires close monitoring. The current trajectory indicates that it will track west-northwest, north of the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico. Computer models exhibit a high degree of consensus in forecasting its progression into a major Category 4 or 5 hurricane over the next few days, with the possibility of rapid intensification.
The NHC has expressed concerns about the forecast’s accuracy, especially regarding the proximity of the Leeward Islands. Although the storm’s current trajectory suggests it will remain at a safe distance, the inherent uncertainties of long-term forecasting necessitate vigilance.
Over the upcoming days, Tropical Storm Lee is expected to traverse ocean waters with temperatures around 86°F East of the Lesser Antilles. Assuming favorable atmospheric conditions, this environment is conducive to rapid intensification, further strengthening the hurricane.
While projections indicate that, beyond five days, the hurricane will move north and northeast, away from the U.S. mainland, it’s essential to stay updated on any changes in its course. Weather features such as cold fronts can play a decisive role in steering the hurricane, potentially altering its trajectory toward the East Coast.