Hurricane Sam, which strengthened to a major Category 4 storm Saturday morning, remained a major storm and is expected a fluctuate in intensity in the next 24 hours, the National Hurricane Center said, with forecasters calling the storm “small but ferocious.”
Sam, the seventh hurricane of the season, now has maximum sustained winds of 150 mph and higher gusts and is moving west-northwest at 7 mph, according to the NHC’s 5 p.m. update.
The storm’s reach is fairly small with its hurricane-force winds reaching 30 miles from its core, and its tropical-storm-force winds extending 90 miles. As of the latest update, Sam is 880 miles east-southeast from the northern Leeward Islands. Sam is forecast to decrease in forward speed over the next day.
“Swells generated by Sam are forecast to reach the Lesser Antilles early this week,” said hurricane specialist Richard Pasch. “These swells could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”
It is still unclear whether Sam will affect Florida or any part of the United States.
U.S. models have the storm continuing to move west toward the Caribbean, but most projections have Sam pushing north just before making landfall in Dominica. European models have Sam making a more aggressive push into the Caribbean before turning north.
Satellite images show Sam has an impressive structure in its early days with a small but well-developed inner core, according to NHC hurricane specialist Cangialosi.
Sam is expected to experience some fluctuations in intensity in the next day or so. The storm should slow down by mid-week and level off in power.
Still, forecasters say it wouldn’t take much for Sam to reach the rare Category 5 strength.
For now, meteorologists are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Meanwhile, the NHC is now monitoring three other systems in the Atlantic.
An elongated area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms associated with remnants of Peter, located several hundred miles southeast of Bermuda, is moving northeast at 10 mph.
“By midweek, environmental conditions are expected to become unfavorable for further development,” NHC forecasters predict, as it has a 50% chance of formation in 48 hours.
Meanwhile, an area of low pressure over the eastern tropical Atlantic is expected to move westward between 5 to 10 mph. It has a 70% chance of developing in the next 5 days.
In addition, another tropical wave is expected to move off the African coast by early Monday. It should move into a favorable Atlantic environment for development, the NHC said. The wave is forecast to move west between 10 to 15 mph. It has a 20% chance of developing in the next 48 hours and a 70% chance of forming in the next five days.
So far, the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season with 19 named systems including Teresa is the third most active behind 2020′s record year and 2005. Sam became the seventh hurricane to form so far.
The next name on the list is Victor with only Wanda left before the NHC will begin using a new set of alphabetical names chosen for busy hurricane seasons. Only 2005 and 2020 ever had to venture beyond the initial list, but in previous years, the storm names were given Greek letters such as Tropical Storm Alpha. Confusion in similar-sounding Greek letters, such as Eta and Theta, though, led to the shift.
If 2021 reaches the new alphabet, the first named storm will be Adria.
The hurricane season runs through Nov. 30.