ORLANDO, Fla. — Hurricane Sam strengthened to a major Category 4 storm Saturday morning while Teresa is now a post-tropical cyclone, the National Hurricane Center said.
Sam, the seventh hurricane of the season, now has maximum sustained winds of 150 mph and higher gusts and is moving west-northwest at 10 mph, according to the NHC’s 5 p.m. update.
The storm’s reach is fairly small with its hurricane-force winds reaching 15 miles from its core, and its tropical-storm-force winds extending 60 miles. As of the latest update, Sam is 1,025 miles east-southeast from the northern Leeward Islands. Sam is forecast to decrease in forward speed over the weekend, said NHC hurricane specialist John Cangialosi.
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 should slow down by mid-week and level off in power. For now, meteorologists are taking a wait-and-see approach.
Meanwhile, Post-Tropical Cyclone Teresa downgraded to a remnant low and the NHC will stop monitoring it.
The NHC noted Teresa will be the ninth “shortie” of the season, which are storms that are weak and short-lived.
In addition, another tropical wave is expected to move off the African coast by Sunday. 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 50% chance of developing into a tropical depression 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.