Tropical Storm Lee has strengthened into a hurricane as it barrels its way through the open waters of the Atlantic on a path that will take it near the northeast Caribbean.
The hurricane was located about 1800km east of the northern Leeward Islands on Wednesday. It had maximum sustained winds of 120km/h and was moving west-northwest at 20km/h, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Current projections show it not making landfall but passing just northeast of the British Virgin Islands, which is still recovering from hurricanes Maria and Irma in September 2017.
Lee is the 12th named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.
It is expected to develop into an “extremely dangerous" major hurricane by early Saturday, according to the centre.
“Lee continues to strengthen at a quick pace,” the centre said, noting that the storm was moving over very warm water and in a moist environment.
The hurricane is expected to generate life-threatening swells forecast to hit the Lesser Antilles on Friday and Puerto Rico and the US and British Virgin Islands this weekend.
The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration warned in August that this year's season would produce an above-normal number of storms. Between 14 to 21 named storms are forecast. Of those, six to 11 could become hurricanes, with two to five of them possibly becoming major hurricanes, the agency said.
In the Pacific, Jova strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane far off the southwest coast of Mexico and posed no threat to land.
It was located some 910km south-southwest of the southern tip of Baja California and moving west-northwest at 25km/h with winds up to 215km/h.
The storm was expected to keep growing stronger.