The storm is poised to become one of the most intense Atlantic hurricanes on record east of the Caribbean.
Hurricane Lee intensified with breakneck speed Thursday over record-warm Atlantic waters, its peak winds catapulting from 80 to 160 mph in just 18 hours. Lee is now a top tier Category 5 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center, and will probably strengthen even more.
Only 6 percent of all hurricanes reach Category 5 strength.
Lee’s extreme intensification comes just one day after Hurricane Jova in the eastern Pacific strengthened with similar haste, leaping from tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane between Tuesday and Wednesday. Jova began to gradually weaken Thursday and is no threat to land.
But forecasters are concerned about Lee, which is little more than 700 miles from the northern Caribbean.
They are closely evaluating the potential for any land impacts, with the greatest risk between Bermuda and the Canadian Maritimes but not for another week or more. Lee’s long-term forecast track is uncomfortably close to eastern New England, which should continue monitoring the storm as shifts in its course are probable.
Two other systems in the Atlantic bear watching too, including Tropical Storm Margot near the Cabo Verde Islands that will probably become a hurricane in the next week…