After losing strength over the past day, Hurricane Lee is once again a Category 3 major as it moves towards the southwest Atlantic. Dangerous surf and rip currents along the majority of the U.S. East Coast are beginning, which will worsen throughout the week.
At the last report from the National Hurricane Center, winds were sustained around 120 mph, making the storm a Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
While the storm will remain far enough away from the Caribbean Islands for any direct impacts, dangerous surf and life-threatening rip currents are already buffeting the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico. These conditions will continue spreading to Hispaniola, Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Bermuda over the coming days.
The U.S. Coast Guard says sea conditions had deteriorated along Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with 10-15 foot surf and life-threatening rip currents. The agency says there are particular dangers for those boating, fishing, beachgoing or engaging in water sports there this weekend.
"We are concerned about people and boaters who may underestimate the impacts of this passing storm," said Capt. José E. Díaz, Coast Guard Sector San Juan (Puerto Rico) commander. "The increase in projected sea states of 10 to 15 feet severely reduces our ability to respond to a maritime distress with the full use of our resources."
Will Lee have any impacts on the US East Coast?
Current infrared satellite loop(FOX Weather)
While Lee is expected to slow down in the coming days in the Southwestern Atlantic as the steering currents wane, dangerous surf and rip currents are beginning along much of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and continuing for the next several days.
FOX Weather Hurricane Specialist Bryan Norcross stated that Lee is not likely to be a direct threat to Florida, Georgia, or South Carolina, but the storm will generate high surf with powerful waves that may cause damage along the shorelines.
While computer models predict Lee will stay offshore of the Eastern Seaboard, some indicate that the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coasts may still feel effects from the storm and monitoring future forecasts is recommended.
"It remains too soon to know what level of impacts, if any, Lee might have along the U.S. East Coast, Atlantic Canada, or Bermuda late next week, especially since the hurricane is expected to slow down considerably over the southwestern Atlantic," the NHC stated.
Hurricane Lee Forecast Cone(FOX Weather)
Hurricane Lee went from Category 1 to Category 5 in 24 hours
The storm underwent rapid intensification with extreme speed on Thursday, transforming from a Category 1 hurricane at 80 mph Wednesday night to a Category 5 monster at 165 mph just 24 hours later.
Lee was only the 13th Category 5 storm to form east of the Caribbean on record.
"When you see a storm that is wrapped up like that, then you know, you've got storm in the upper echelon" said FOX Weather Hurricane Specialist Bryan Norcross. "And this has been a really one for the record books in so many ways. And just thankfully, it's not heading for land, at least there in the short term."
The storm ran into wind shear Friday, sapping some of the storm's strength and knocking it down to a Category 3. Lee has dropped to a Category 2 storm on Saturday but is expected to reenergize into a major hurricane early next week as it slowly swirls in the Southwestern Atlantic.
Where Hurricane Lee is(FOX Weather)
Where is Hurricane Lee?
According to the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Lee is about 280 miles to the east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands.
The hurricane continues to head in a west-northwest direction and has begun slowing down over the southwestern Atlantic where it is expected to regain its major status.
Hurricane Lee Winds(FOX Weather)
What is the forecast track for Hurricane Lee?
Hurricane Lee is expected to continue moving west-northwest in the open waters of the southwestern Atlantic during the coming days, remaining far to the east of the Bahamas by early next week.
On the current track, Lee is expected to pass well north of the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico over the next couple of days.
There are currently no watches or warnings in effect for any landmasses.
While Lee had dropped in intensity Friday and early Saturday, forecasters say during the early workweek, the hurricane could regain Category 4 status, if atmospheric conditions are conducive.
Hurricane Lee Spaghetti Forecast(FOX Weather)