Will Hurricane Lee reach New York?

Hurricane Lee, currently barreling westwards through the Atlantic towards the Caribbean islands, rapidly intensified into a Category 5 storm on Thursday night and it is feared the storm could soon work up to wind speeds of 180mph.

It is expected to pass well to the north of the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico over the weekend and into early next week, according to forecasters.

After that, however, its path is less clear cut, with different models reaching different verdicts as to precisely how close it could pass along the US East Coast as it steers northwards, already inspiring some premature and slightly hysterical tabloid headlines.

More credibly, CBS has warned that Hurricane Lee’s path “might” bring it to New York City and the Tri-State Area, reporting that initial forecasts suggested “a landfall in the Mid-Atlantic region, and then riding up the coastline towards New York” before drifting out to sea.

Since then, tracking on Thursday has placed Lee “much closer to the East Coast”, the network reports, with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts predicting the hurricane will stay out in the ocean without “making a direct landfall, but coming very close to the US mainland”.

“This solution would yield heavy rain and wind for the extreme eastern portion of Long Island, before heading toward Nova Scotia,” it adds.

America’s Global Forecast System, meanwhile, “has Lee scraping Cape Cod, and then heading into the Canadian Maritimes”, which, the broadcaster warns, is likewise “unnervingly close to home, and must be monitored carefully”.

Lonnie Quinn, a CBS New York meteorologist, was relatively adamant about the likelihood of Lee’s arrival during a Thursday evening segment, commenting: “This will definitely be a big player for our area. This will definitely be a significant weather event for our area.”

For its part, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) says it is “way too soon to know what level of impacts, if any, Lee might have along the US East Coast, Atlantic Canada, or Bermuda late next week, particularly since the hurricane is expected to slow down considerably over the southwestern Atlantic.

“Regardless, dangerous surf and rip currents are expected along most of the US East Coast beginning Sunday,” the NHC adds.

President Joe Biden is understood to have been briefed about the hurricane’s latest trajectory on Thursday and given details of preparations underway by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has deployed assets to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, according to the White House.

The prospect of the hurricane’s arrival in New York City will conjure unwelcome memories of Superstorm Sandy in 2012, which submerged parts of the Big Apple and caused more than 40 fatalities a decade ago.