Hurricane Sam has become a “major” Category 3 storm with the possibility of strengthening in the coming days, according to the National Hurricane Center noted in a public notice on Saturday. The “small but dangerous” hurricane was one of the first 18th name storms to form, battered only by last season, which was the most active hurricane season on record.
Maximum sustained winds increased to around 120 miles per hour with even higher gusts. Storm winds extend outward up to 25 miles from its center, and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 105 miles.
“Further strengthening is expected over the next few days, and Sam is expected to become a Category 4 hurricane by Sunday,” the National Hurricane Center said. “Some fluctuations in the intensity of the hurricane are possible early next week.”
As of Saturday, Sam has been moving west-northwest at nearly 10 miles per hour in the Atlantic Ocean. It is not yet known if the storm will make landfall in the United States.
The swells are expected to reach the Lesser Antilles island group in the Caribbean Sea early next week, which could cause “life-threatening surf and surge conditions” . The hurricane center urged residents of the area to check out the products from their local weather offices.
Sam strengthened in a Category 2 storm on Friday night and is considered by the hurricane center to be a “small hurricane,” although it has already met the criteria for a rapid build-up. This is the 16th storm to intensify rapidly in the past two seasons in the Atlantic.
Jeff Berardelli contributed reporting.