Hurricane Lee is currently making its way west-northwest across the Atlantic Ocean. The core of the hurricane is projected to stay well north of the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico throughout the upcoming weekend and into the next week. As of now, it’s too early to determine what kind of impact Hurricane Lee might have when it eventually reaches the East Coast.
What has been truly remarkable to meteorologists and hurricane experts is Hurricane Lee’s rapid intensification. The standard measure for rapid intensification is when a hurricane’s maximum sustained winds increase by 35 mph or more within a 24-hour period. In the case of Lee, its maximum sustained winds surged by over 80 mph within 24 hours, catapulting it to Category 5 status by Friday.
But what exactly does it mean when a hurricane is classified as Category 5? It signifies the potential for catastrophic damage to buildings, infrastructure, and vegetation. It can lead to the complete destruction of mobile homes, and storm surges typically exceed 18 feet above normal, resulting in severe and widespread coastal flooding. Hurricane Katrina, one of the most notorious Category 5 hurricanes, initially made landfall in Florida as a Category 5 hurricane, although it continued to cause significant damage when it hit Louisiana as a Category 3 hurricane. The city’s design and flood defense system contributed to the extent of its damage.
However, unfavorable atmospheric conditions overnight, such as dry air and high wind shear, weakened Hurricane Lee to a Category 3 hurricane. While it’s no longer classified as Category 5, it still remains a major hurricane. Forecasters anticipate that it will slow its progression towards the East Coast but may regain strength, possibly reaching Category 4 status by Tuesday.
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The current models suggest that Hurricane Lee is unlikely to make landfall on any of the northern Caribbean Islands, including Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Nevertheless, this formidable storm is expected to generate large waves and dangerous rip currents, which could impact a significant portion of the US East Coast starting on Sunday and Monday.
The central question on everyone’s minds is when Hurricane Lee will change its course, a shift that meteorologists predict will occur in about five days. The exact path it will follow as it moves north remains uncertain, with projections placing it somewhere between the East Coast and Bermuda. There is a possibility that it may make landfall in northern New England or the Canadian Maritimes, but it could also veer away from land entirely.
As Hurricane Lee approaches, it’s important to note that the Florida coast is still recovering from the recent impact of Hurricane Idalia, which struck just last week. In response, additional disaster assistance has been authorized, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) stepping in to provide aid, including temporary shelter and support for basic home repairs, for those without insurance. The ongoing recovery efforts underscore the importance of preparedness and resilience in the face of these powerful natural disasters.