ASHEBORO N.C. – Forecasters will be keeping a very close eye on Hurricane Lee over the weekend to see if forecast models predicting the storm will make a turn out to sea will be accurate.
Current Location / Strength
Over less than 24 hours, Lee intensified from a tropical storm into a category 5 hurricane with reported winds of 160+ mph. That rapid intensification is the quickest any system has gone from a tropical storm to a category 5 hurricane in Atlantic hurricane season history.
Lee is currently located around 750 miles to the east of San Juan, Puerto Rico (18.2N 54.5W), and is moving WNW at 13 mph. This morning Lee encountered some wind shear resulting in sustained winds falling below 160 mph dropping Lee back down to a category 4 storm.
Lee is the first category 5 storm of 2023, and the 39th category 5 storm in the last 100 years.
What Forecasters Are Expecting
Over the weekend, forecasters say Lee will pass north of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands as it approaches the east coast of the U.S.
Current models are showing two factors coming into play to keep Lee from impacting the SE coast. A Bermuda-Azores high pressure system is expected for form in the western Atlantic and a dip in the jet stream is expected to descend over the northern central U.S. and head towards the east coast.
Models are showing that those two systems would drive Lee away from the southeastern coast of the U.S., with the colder air of the jet stream working to weaken Lee in the process.
The ensemble models mostly agree with the overall GFS model, with some variations in the track this morning to the east and west. However, it’s still too early for high confidence in these models as any slight changes can compound shifting the track by hundreds of miles.
We will continue to monitor Lee and any changes to the models that could result in impacts in our area and will update this article as the latest information is made available.