As AccuWeather’s team of hurricane experts accurately forecast a full day before any other source, Hurricane Lee, initially categorized as a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale with 80-mph winds on Wednesday evening, rapidly intensified into a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 165 mph Thursday evening.
This was one of the fastest rates of strengthening in the Atlantic Basin on record, bringing memories to Hurricane Wilma, which in 2005 intensified by 105 mph in 24 hours on the way to peaking with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph.
Lee is expected to have fluctuations in intensity over the next few days due to eye-wall replacement processes and other internal dynamics, but the possibility to reach a similar intensity to Wilma will be there. It cannot be ruled out that Lee would challenge Hurricane Allen in 1980, the strongest hurricane by wind speed in the Atlantic Basin on record, with maximum sustained winds of 190 mph. (The strongest hurricane on record globally is Hurricane Patricia, which ravaged western Mexico in 2015 with maximum sustained winds of 215 mph).
With Lee having reached Category 5 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson wind scale for hurricanes, there has now been a Category 5 storm this year in each of the 7 tropical Ocean basins globally, perhaps for the first time in recorded history, making 2023 a remarkable year for storm activity.
AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski said. “As we warned about on Wednesday, Lee mirrored what Hurricane Jova did in the eastern Pacific.” “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.”
Current Location: Hurricane Lee is approximately 565 miles east of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean.