(NEW YORK) — Hurricane Lee is increasing in strength, becoming a Category 3 hurricane on Sunday as it churned over the Atlantic Ocean with maximum sustained winds of 120 mph.
The hurricane is currently moving to the northwest at 8 mph, with its center located about 285 miles north, northeast of the Leeward Islands.
Lee had strengthened on Thursday to a Category 4 hurricane, and finally to a Category 5 by 11 p.m. ET before weakening to a Category 2 storm late Saturday night.
Lee weakened slightly on Friday due to less favorable atmospheric conditions where the storm is churning, including wind shear and dry air, which are expected to persist for at least another 12 to 24 hours.
On Saturday night, Lee was no longer a major hurricane but had been forecast to gradually strengthen on Sunday, potentially briefly reaching Category 4 strength on Monday before it weakens again into the middle of next week.
Lee will bypass the northern Caribbean islands, sparing Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The only impact on the islands will be large waves and life-threatening rip currents this weekend.
Long-range models can change over the next week, but they currently show Lee moving parallel to the East Coast. If Lee stays on that course, the East Coast would also be hit with rough surf and life-threatening rip currents throughout the upcoming week.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has pre-deployed assets to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, according to the White House.
President Joe Biden was briefed Thursday on the latest trajectory and FEMA’s preparations, the White House said.
ABC News’ Dan Peck contributed to this report.
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