Thursday, September 21, 2023
Thursday, September 21, 2023

Hurricane Lee to restrengthen as AccuWeather forecasters monitor impacts for US, Canada

by admin
Hurricane Lee to restrengthen as AccuWeather forecasters monitor impacts for US, Canada

Hurricane Lee will ramp up once again to a major hurricane over warm ocean waters. As Lee tracks northward in the coming days, impacts are expected in eastern New England and Canada.

AccuWeather meteorologists continue to track the path of Hurricane Lee as it churns north of the Caribbean. They say it will restrengthen to a major hurricane over the next day or so as it moves over abnormally warm ocean waters.

Hurricane Lee grew rapidly into a monster Category 5 hurricane churning over the Atlantic last Friday morning. It will remain a powerful and dangerous hurricane as it spins well north of the Leeward Islands on Sunday, prior to taking a northward turn along the East coast of the United States by the middle of this week. AccuWeather meteorologists warn that the threat of impacts in eastern New England is increasing, and much of the East Coast will experience high seas and dangerous surf.

Lee, which was named in the central Atlantic on Tuesday, was located about 270 miles north-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands of the eastern Caribbean by Sunday afternoon. It was a Category 2 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.

Due to its mega strengthening from Thursday to Friday morning, becoming a Category 5 for a period of time, Lee holds the title of the strongest hurricane to churn in the Atlantic during the 2023 season.

Hurricane Lee had undergone a rapid intensification, reaching top-tier Category 5 strength on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale and packing 165-mph winds early Friday morning. Just 24 hours prior, it had been an 80-mph Category 1 hurricane. Rapid intensification occurs when a tropical system’s sustained winds increase by 35 mph or more in 24 hours. Lee had more than doubled down on the criteria needed for rapid intensification, which is extremely rare.


In fact, only six other Atlantic hurricanes have strengthened by 80 mph or greater within a 24-hour period. According to Philip Klotzbach, a Colorado State University meteorologist, the other hurricanes that intensified at a similarly astounding pace include Eta in 2020, Maria in 2017, Matthew in 2016, Ike in 2008, Felix in 2007 and Wilma in 2005.

Category 5 Hurricane Lee late on Sept. 7, 2023.

“Wilma, from the 2005 mega hurricane season, holds the record for 24-hour rapid intensification in the Atlantic basin,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bill Deger said. “The system’s sustained winds ramped up 105 mph from a 70-mph tropical storm to a 175-mph Category 5 hurricane in 24 hours.”

Lee has already traveled more than 1,000 miles since its birth over the west-central Atlantic early last week and will likely more than double that distance by early this week.

The major hurricane will take a curved path around a large area of high pressure sitting over the central Atlantic, which will guide the powerful storm north of the northern islands of the Caribbean on Sunday, then northeast of the Bahamas, west of Bermuda and east of the southeastern United States into the first half of this week.

“Changes in Lee’s eye structure will result in some fluctuation in the strength of the hurricane through this weekend,” AccuWeather Chief On-Air Meteorologist Bernie Rayno said.

Rayno pointed out that Lee was so intense that it had been creating its own moist environment since Thursday — a factor that can help powerhouse hurricanes maintain strength.

A phenomenon known as wind shear may also contribute to fluctuations in strength this weekend. Strong wind shear, or changing winds with altitude, can quickly tear apart organized tropical systems or make it more challenging for cyclones to develop. A lack of vertical wind shear is optimal for strengthening and tropical organization.

From midweek on, the exact track of Lee will determine the scope of direct and indirect impacts in the eastern U.S. and Atlantic Canada. The slow forward speed of Lee for a time this week may cause the system to lose some wind intensity as cool water from the depths is churned to the surface. However, Lee will remain a powerful and dangerous hurricane.

“Starting as early as Sunday, seas and surf will build to dangerous levels along the central and northern coast of Florida and expand northward through the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts this week,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Joe Lundberg said.

The building surf will lead to frequent and strong rip currents, pounding waves, beach erosion and even coastal flooding at times of high tide. Breezy conditions are expected to spread along the Carolina coastline during the last half of this week.

AccuWeather forecasters have given an all-clear from the standpoint of a direct hit from Florida to North Carolina, which will prevent Lee’s high winds and flooding rain from reaching areas recently hard-hit by Idalia.

However, by late last week, forecasters began to note that the risk of impacts was increasing farther north along the coast of North America from New England to the Canadian Maritime Provinces and the large Canadian island of Newfoundland.

AccuWeather forecasters are keeping a close eye on the future track of Hurricane Lee as the storm nears North America later this week into the upcoming weekend. At this point, forecasters think Lee will either make landfall somewhere from far eastern New England to Atlantic Canada.

As Lee approaches, the behavior of the jet stream will determine the extent of the direct impacts in the northeastern United States.

As the jet stream swings eastward along the Atlantic coast at a swift pace, it should help to protect the mid-Atlantic from feeling direct rain and high winds from Lee.

However, if the jet stream is stronger, dips southward and stalls when Lee approaches, the powerful storm could be pulled in close to the U.S. by steering winds during the middle and latter part of next week. In the latter scenario, there is the risk of a landfall in eastern New England with widespread risks to lives and property.

Forecasters are outlining primary impacts from Lee from southeastern Massachusetts on northeastward through Nova Scotia, areas of Newfoundland and Laborador. Higher impacts will be likely across southern and eastern Nova Scotia, particularly over the upcoming weekend.

“The area in the United States that really needs to pay attention is along the eastern coast of New England,” Rayno said, adding that parts of Atlantic Canada are most likely to also get direct impacts from Lee by late week.

Even if the center of Lee remains offshore, heavy rain and strong winds are expected to reach parts of New England over the upcoming weekend. Lee’s proximity to the coast will determine how severe conditions become in terms of damage from storm surge, high winds and torrential rain.

“What tends to happen as hurricanes move into northern latitudes during September and October is that the rain and wind fields tend to expand as the storm’s top winds decrease,” AccuWeather Director of Forecast Operations Dan DePodwin said. This is how a storm center passing a couple of hundred miles to the east can still bring heavy rain and/or strong winds to parts of the Northeast, depending on the weather pattern.

By next weekend, steering breezes relative to Lee will increase and cause the hurricane’s forward speed to increase substantially.

Peak wind gusts from Lee ranging from 40-60 mph will be possible from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to parts of Newfoundland and Laborador, with winds blowing upwards to 80-100 mph where the storm can make landfall across areas of southern Nova Scotia.

Forecasters urge offshore shipping, fishing and cruise interests to closely monitor the track of Hurricane Lee, which will generate massive seas. Deep sea swells could range from 30-40 feet and locally higher in the proximity of the powerful storm that is likely to remain a hurricane for an extended time in northern Atlantic waters. Swells of 10-20 feet may be as close as a few dozen miles offshore.

Heavy rain can spread from the border of Maine and New Brunswick through Nova Scotia and southern Newfoundland over the upcoming weekend as Lee tracks northward. A wide swath of 1-2 inches is expected across this zone, with 2-4 inches possible in western Nova Scotia as early as this Saturday.

AccuWeather was the first to initiate track maps for Lee prior to it becoming a named tropical system and the first to forecast it to become a Category 5 hurricane, some 24 hours ahead of the National Hurricane Center.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Tropical Depression Fourteen formed near a group of islands off the west coast of Africa called the Cabo Verde Islands on Thursday midday and, hours later, was upgraded to Tropical Storm Margot.

Margot is likely to ramp up to a hurricane before the middle of this week. Once this system moves away from the Cabo Verde Islands, it is not likely to be a threat to land in the near future.

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