Hurricane Lee grew further on Tuesday and prompted a tropical storm watch for Bermuda as the cyclone’s potential impacts begin to come into focus on the island and beyond.
The storm has been growing in size since the weekend and hurricane-force winds now extend 125 miles from downtown Lee, according to the hurricane center’s update at 5 p.m. ET. Tropical storm force winds extend to 240 miles from its core on Tuesday night, having grown 55 miles in 12 hours.
Lee is expected to remain fairly strong through Tuesday night, but will lose some intensity Wednesday into Thursday as it moves over slightly cooler waters churned up by Hurricane Franklin earlier this month.
But as Lee loses some strength this week, the hurricane will simultaneously continue to grow in size and begin moving faster.
A larger storm could affect a larger area, even if its winds no longer reach monster hurricane levels. Therefore, a larger Hurricane Lee is more likely to affect the East Coast, even if it does not make direct landfall.
Tropical storm-force winds could extend more than 300 miles from the center of Lee later this week, National Hurricane Center Director Michael Brennan said. saying at a storm briefing on Monday.
This means potentially damaging wind gusts could still affect parts of the northeastern U.S. by the end of the week, even if the center of Lee remains a few hundred kilometers offshore over the Atlantic Ocean. Tropical storm-force wind gusts could reach parts of Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts by Friday night, when the center of Lee is expected to be about 250 miles to the southeast.
The exact timing and extent of Lee’s winds and precipitation over the United States and Canada could still fluctuate due to lingering uncertainty about its track. But the hurricane’s track could look better once it turns north on Wednesday.
Regardless of its final track, the storm will send large waves to a growing area of the East Coast throughout the week as it moves north. This will cause coastal erosion, dangerous waves and life-threatening rip currents on beaches.
Dangerous waves were already occurring along the southeast coast of the United States, from Florida to the Carolinas and on many of the far eastern Caribbean islands, as well as the British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Bermuda.
A high risk of rip currents was in effect through at least Wednesday night in coastal areas from Florida north to Massachusetts. Rip currents have already killed 71 people in the US this year, according to preliminary data National Weather Service data shows. Three people in New Jersey died from rip currents arose in the wake of Hurricane Franklin last week.
Lee is expected to turn north on Wednesday and pick up pace. The hurricane is expected to move closer to Bermuda from Thursday to Friday, unleashing strong winds and rain, as well as dangerous surf and rip currents.
Late Tuesday morning, the Bermuda Weather Service issued a tropical storm watch for the island, meaning tropical storm conditions are possible there in the next 48 hours.
Tropical storm-force wind gusts are likely to hit Bermuda Thursday morning into Friday as Lee passes to the west. Rain could also fall heavily at times during this period and could cause localized flash flooding.
The seas around the island will become dangerous with large waves as Lee approaches.