'Small but dangerous' Sam strengthens to major hurricane, expected to continue growing

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Sam strengthened into a major hurricane Saturday and and will likely continue to strengthen through the weekend, the National Hurricane Center said.

Sam was located about 2,300 miles southeast of Miami as of 11 a.m. EDT Saturday. The "small but dangerous" storm was moving west-northwest at 10 mph, the hurricane center said.

The system intensified quickly, going from a tropical depression to a hurricane in less than 24 hours. Sam strengthened into a Category 4 hurricane by Saturday evening. . The storm's maximum sustained winds are at 140 mph.

A major hurricane is classified as one with winds of at least 111 mph. Sam is still a "small" hurricane, with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 30 miles from the storm's center, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm is expected to strengthen more Saturday night, according to the hurricane center.

AccuWeather forecasters say the system could turn toward the U.S. in the early days of October.

Sam is the 18th named storm of the Atlantic season and the seventh hurricane. Only one other hurricane season — 2020 — on record has had 18 named storms by Sept. 23, said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.

Sam became a major hurricane on Saturday.
Sam became a major hurricane on Saturday.

So far this year there have been three other major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger): Grace, Ida and Larry.

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Elsewhere in the tropics, the Hurricane Center is tracking three systems in the Atlantic, including a new one east of the Carolinas.

The remaining names on the list for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season are Teresa, Victor and Wanda.

If those names are used, there is a supplemental list approved by the World Meteorological Organization, which replaced the Greek alphabet used during last year's record-breaking season.

The supplemental list includes Adria, Braylen, Caridad, Deshawn, Emery, Foster, Gemma and Heath.

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Contributing: Susan Miller, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Hurricane Sam now major hurricane, could reach US in October

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