FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Hurricane Larry has been intensifying steadily and, by Thursday afternoon, had grown slightly larger, according to the National Hurricane Center. Larry is forecast to develop rapidly into a major hurricane with top winds reaching up to 140 mph.
Larry, the fifth hurricane of the season, formed early Thursday and is expected strengthen into a major hurricane, with winds of at least 111 mph, by late Friday, the hurricane center said. By Sunday night, its maximum sustained winds are forecast to reach 140 mph, putting it at Category 4 strength.
Larry is coalescing in the eastern central Atlantic, an area where storms tend to form during peak season, which runs mid-August through October.
It’s currently on a path west over the central Atlantic, in the general direction of the U.S. However, it is forecast to make a gradual turn to the west-northwest Friday night, before slowing in speed on Saturday, according to the hurricane center’s five-day forecast outlook. Beyond that, it’s too early to tell where it may head.
Forecasters say conditions support rapid development.
Located roughly 765 miles off the west coast of Africa as of 5 p.m. EDT Thursday, its hurricane-force winds extended out up to 25 miles from its center and its tropical-storm-force winds extended up to 160 miles.
If Larry develops into a major hurricane as forecast, it would be the third of the season, along with Grace, a Category 3, and Ida, a Category 4.
There are only five years in the satellite era, which began in 1966, that had three major hurricanes by Sept. 4: 2008, 2005, 2004, 1996 and 1969, according to Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach.
Meanwhile, forecasters are watching two other areas for potential storm development.
An area of low pressure in the western Caribbean could move over the Gulf of Honduras on Friday. This system could then move over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico this weekend and early next week, but upper-level winds would hinder development.
A second area of low pressure area formed late Thursday morning about 280 miles east-southeast of the Cabo Verde Islands off the coast of west Africa, according to the hurricane center. Forecasters said some development is possible over the next 24 hours as the low moves west at about 15 mph. After that, conditions are expected to be less ideal for development.
With the formation of Larry, a total of seven named storms have formed in the Atlantic between Aug. 10 and Sept. 1 this year. That ties the record established in 2011, according to Klotzbach.
And this is the sixth year to have 12 named storms by Sept. 1, joining 2020, 2012, 2011, 2005 and 1995, he said.
The season’s pace is running “well above average,” according to AccuWeather. “Typically, the 12th named system and second major hurricane does not occur for another five weeks, or in early October.”
The number of expected major hurricanes this season is three to five, according to the forecast from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
As of Sept. 2, there have been 12 named storms and five hurricanes, two of which have been major hurricanes.
NOAA’s forecast predicts 7 to 10 hurricanes and 15 to 21 named storms this Atlantic season, which means those with winds speeds of at least 39 mph.
The next named storm to form would be Mindy.