UPDATE: Tropical Storm Lee has been upgraded to Hurricane Lee. FOX Weather's coverage has been moved to a new story. This story is no longer being updated.
Tropical Storm Lee is expected to become a hurricane later Wednesday and is likely to rapidly intensify into an extremely dangerous major hurricane by Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said.
"This storm is going to be a monster," FOX Weather meteorologist Stephen Morgan said.
Lee is poised to give a glancing blow to the Lesser Antilles and Puerto Rico this weekend as a major Category 4 hurricane with winds of 150 mph before it turns to the north well off the U.S. East Coast.
While the storm's most dangerous winds are expected to remain offshore, swells generated by Lee are expected to reach portions of the Lesser Antilles on Friday. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, the NHC said.
Will Lee have any impacts on the US East Coast?
Long-range forecasts show Lee then continuing to churn offshore as it heads north next week, but how close it nestles to the East Coast is still uncertain.
FOX Weather hurricane specialist Bryan Norcross said soon-to-become Hurricane Lee is not likely to be a direct threat to Florida, Georgia or South Carolina.
"The powerful winds should stay well offshore of the Bahamas and the Southeast U.S.," Norcross said.
However, the storm will generate very high surf with powerful, dangerous waves, which could do damage along the coast.
Most computer models predict Lee will stay offshore, but some indicate a track close enough to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coast to warrant monitoring future forecasts next week.
"Impacts from North Carolina to New England along the East Coast are still an open question," Norcross added.
"To think that we’re not going to feel the impacts on the East Coast because there might not be a landfall (is) crazy… because this storm’s going to grow in size, and it’s something that we pay close attention to," Morgan said.
Where is Tropical Storm Lee?
According to the NHC, Tropical Storm Lee is about 1,200 miles to the east of the northern Leeward Islands and has maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. The system is moving to the west-northwest at 14 mph.
Forecast models take the storm just north of the Caribbean islands, but close enough that tropical storm conditions may be felt in places like Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico on Saturday.
What is the forecast for Tropical Storm Lee?
Tropical Storm Lee is expected to move northwest during the coming days and eventually make it into the eastern reaches of the Caribbean Sea.
Lee is forecast to reach hurricane strength by early Thursday if not later Wednesday and major hurricane strength by Friday afternoon. By Saturday, winds could reach high-end Category 4 strength.
"The atmospheric and oceanic conditions appear extremely favorable for rapid intensification during the next several days," NHC forecasters said.