Hurricane Lee has turned northwestward, beginning its long-awaited arc north, away from Florida, and is expected to run parallel to the U.S. east coast over the coming days while accelerating and widening, the National Hurricane Center said late Tuesday afternoon.
The Atlantic Basin is active with three other systems.
Hurricane Margot is expected to remain a Category 1 storm but its path will meander northwest and north toward the end of the week. Farther east, two tropical waves near Africa are in the process of merging into one system that is likely to form into a tropical depression by the weekend as it moves northwest toward the central tropical Atlantic.
Though forecasters expect Lee to weaken slightly as it heads north, hurricane hunter aircraft found Tuesday that it has grown significantly in width, enhancing its impact area. The storm will parallel the U.S. East Coast and remain west of Bermuda.
The NHC describes Lee as a “very large hurricane” whose hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 240 miles.
The storm’s growing wind field should impact Bermuda on Thursday when Lee is forecast to turn north and move faster, prompting the Bermuda Weather Service to issue a Tropical Storm Watch. Lee’s outer bands could bring 1 to 2 inches of rain to the island.
Long Island and southern New England could see tropical-storm-force winds arriving as early as Friday.
The hurricane center’s prediction extends through Sunday morning, at which time the storm may have dissipated to a tropical storm, making potential landfall in an area that includes coastal Maine, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, Lee was about 515 miles south-southwest of Bermuda, moving northwest at 7 mph and maintaining top wind speeds of 115 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Last week, Lee went through exceptionally rapid intensification, vaulting from a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph early Thursday to a dangerous Category 5 storm with 165 mph winds in just 24 hours.
The hurricane center said islands in the far eastern Caribbean, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and Bermuda were experiencing swells from Lee as of Tuesday night.
Forecasters said “dangerous surf and rip currents” were already affecting parts of the U.S. southeastern coast Tuesday night, and the conditions are expected to move north along much of the coast and to Atlantic Canada in the next few days.
The weather service added that South Florida beaches will experience “deteriorating beach and boating conditions” by the middle of this week with a likely risk of deadly rip currents.
As Lee gradually builds swells during the week, there could be some minor beach erosion from rough surf pounding against shore at high tide.
Lee is expected to move over cooler sea temperatures left in the wake of Hurricane Franklin later in the week. That, along with wind shear and dry air, is expected to weaken Lee steadily late this week and throughout the weekend, forecasters said.
Lee is the fourth Atlantic hurricane of the 2023 season, behind Don, Franklin and Idalia, and the third major hurricane, meaning Category 3 or above. Franklin and Idalia were major hurricanes.
A strengthening Hurricane Margot was at Category 1 Tuesday, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 80 miles from Margot’s center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 265 miles.
After Friday, Margot’s track is “unusually uncertain,” and that track will determine whether the system will strengthen or weaken.
“Depending on the exact evolution and path of Margot, it could hold its intensity for a bit longer, or quickly begin a transition to a remnant low,” forecasters said.
Forecasters also are watching two disturbances in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean that are in the process of merging. After they combine in the next few days, the system will move west-northwest or northwestward across the central Atlantic.
As of 8 p.m., the hurricane center said it has an 80% chance of developing into a tropical depression in the next seven days and a 30% chance in the next 48 hours.
The season officially runs through Nov. 30. The next named storm will be Nigel.