Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Where Hurricane Lee Is Now, and Where It Might Go

Hurricane Lee continues to churn in the Atlantic, with an uncertain path that still could include the east coasts of the United States or Canada.

Early Tuesday, hurricane forecasters said the storm would likely pass near but to the west of Bermuda in a few days and move offshore of the Mid-Atlantic states and New England by the weekend. If it does hit the United States or Canada, like many of the weather models indicate, it wouldn’t be until late in the weekend at the earliest.

Forecasters with the National Hurricane Center continue to warn that it is too early to know the level of impacts Lee might have along the Northeast U.S. coast and Atlantic Canada late this week and this weekend. Even if landfall doesn’t occur, wind and rainfall hazards will extend well away from the center as Lee grows in size.

There is now at least a small chance that tropical-storm-force winds will occur along parts of the Mid-Atlantic and New England coastlines over the next five days.

There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect. However, dangerous surf conditions generated by the storm are affecting parts of the Caribbean and will spread north, the Hurricane Center said.

As Lee grows in size, these dangerous surf and rip currents are also expected along most of the U.S. East Coast, starting in the Southeast and spreading northward over the next couple of days.

As of early Tuesday, Hurricane Lee was about 575 miles south of Bermuda, the Hurricane Center said.

Lee had maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour, making it a Category 3 storm. Some strengthening was expected over the next day or so, followed by gradual weakening, the Hurricane Center said.

After passing Bermuda, the storm will continue to move in the direction of New England and Nova Scotia, but there are still factors that could affect the forecast path.

Storms like to move along the path of least resistance. That path is typically toward low pressure. A high-pressure system to the north is currently steering the storm to the northwest, but that system is expected to shift east around the middle of the week. This shift will allow for the storm to travel north and accelerate in forward speed.

It’s unclear when the high pressure will shift east. The longer Lee goes northwest, the closer the storm gets to coastal areas. It also depends on how slowly the storm moves over the next couple of days.

As it has repeatedly over the last few days, the Hurricane Center said early Tuesday that it “remains too soon to know” what type of impact the storm will have on the East Coast of North America into the weekend.

The next factor forecasters will monitor closely into the weekend will be if the high-pressure system restrengthens, presumably pushing the storm back northwest toward the United States.

Five-day forecast models now include the probabilities and likely arrival times of damaging, tropical-storm-force winds along the U.S. and Canadian coasts. Use the table below to look up your city or town.

One of the early versions of a computer model suggested that the East Coast could get hit, a possibility that has lingered in the minds of some forecasters and amateur weather watchers, in part because of widespread social media hype.

But when you look at all the versions of the model, there is still not an overwhelming consensus on where the center of the hurricane will go after this weekend, with some outliers projecting landfall along the East Coast.

Sometimes, multiple models are displayed on a single map with lines plotting where that computer simulation believes the center of the storm will be five, seven or even 14 days in the future.

Known as spaghetti models, these mapped model outputs derive their name from their resemblance to long strands of pasta.

The closer the lines are to one another, the more confidence forecasters have in what the storm might do. For the next few days, there is a pretty reliable consensus that the storm will track northwest.

When the spaghetti lines spread wider apart, forecasters have many more possibilities to contend with.

Right now that spread is everywhere from Cape Cod to Newfoundland, with the greatest density of possible tracks over Maine and Nova Scotia.

We’re a little over halfway through the Atlantic hurricane season, which started on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

In late May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted 12 to 17 named storms this year, a “near-normal” amount. On Aug. 10, NOAA officials revised their forecast upward, estimating 14 to 21 storms, and the last few weeks have been busy.

When it formed, Lee became the 12th named storm of this year’s Atlantic season. (And the 13th if you count an unnamed storm in January that experts at the Hurricane Center said should have been named.) Lee is also the eighth since Aug. 20, when two tropical storms, Emily and Franklin, formed. A week later, on Aug. 30, Tropical Storm Idalia made landfall along Florida’s Gulf Coast as a Category 3 hurricane.

Tropical Storm Margot formed last week and strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane on Monday.

There is consensus among scientists that hurricanes are becoming more powerful because of climate change. Although there might not be more named storms overall, the likelihood of major hurricanes is increasing.

Anastasia Marks, Eduardo Medina and Derrick Bryson Taylor contributed reporting.

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