Hurricane Margot forms, and Hurricane Lee slows before expected turn north

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Hurricane Lee, now a Category 3 storm with 115 mph sustained winds, slowed on Monday and is expected to make a sharp turn north in the next few days, the National Hurricane Center said.

Margot, in the central Atlantic, has strengthened into a hurricane, the Atlantic Basin’s fifth of the season.

Farther east, two tropical waves near Africa are expected to merge later this week as they move toward the central tropical Atlantic.

Lee is still forecast to turn north in the next few days, paralleling the U.S. east coast, but well offshore, and to the west of Bermuda.

The hurricane center’s prediction extends through Saturday afternoon, at which time the storm will be slightly less powerful, but still a hurricane, traveling off the coast of Massachusetts.

The cone indicating the possible path of the eye of the storm now includes eastern New England.

As of 5 p.m. Eastern time Monday, Lee was about 600 miles south-southeast of Bermuda, moving northwest at 7 mph with sustained wind speeds of 115 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Lee had been a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph early Thursday.

But by late that night, its top wind speed had spiked to 160 mph, making it a colossus Category 5 storm. By early Friday, Lee’s maximum sustained winds intensified to 165 mph before declining.

The hurricane center warned of “hazardous surf and rip currents” at beaches across the Bahamas and the east coast of the U.S. all week.

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 starting as soon as Monday.

As Lee gradually builds swells during the week, there could be some minor beach erosion from rough surf pounding against shore at high tide.

The National Hurricane Center warned that although it expects the storm’s wind speed to weaken slightly, Lee will grow in size significantly, extending hazards well away from the center of the storm by the end of the forecast period.

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.

In the Central Atlantic, Margot has strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane with sustained wind speeds of 75 mph. It is the Atlantic Basin’s fifth hurricane of the season. The system is expected to kick up to a Category 2 storm with 100 mph winds in the coming days. It is forecast to turn north, not currently a threat to South Florida.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 15 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 125 miles.

Forecasters also are watching two disturbances in the far eastern Atlantic Ocean, one with a 10% chance of development in the next two to seven days, the other with a 60% chance over the next week.

The one nearest to North America, which has a 10% chance, is expected to move slowly west before merging with the tropical wave to its east, forecasters said Monday.

That wave, nearer to Africa’s west coast, is forecast to potentially become a tropical depression on a west-northwest track. The season officially runs through Nov. 30.