Hurricane Lee weakened to a Category 3 hurricane Friday evening, one day after it exploded from a Category 1 to a dangerous Category 5, but is still forecast to remain a powerful storm into next week.
Lee's rapid intensification Thursday was rare — maximum sustained winds doubled from 80 mph to 165 mph in a matter of 24 hours.
On Friday, the storm weakened gradually from its status as a Category 5 in the early morning, eventually down to a Category 3, still remaining a major hurricane.
Lee is now swirling about 440 miles east of the northern Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph, the National Hurricane Center said in an 11 p.m. ET advisory.
The hurricane is moving west, northwest at 13 mph, and is forecast to pass to the north of the northern Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico over the weekend and into early next week.
"Fluctuations in intensity are likely over the next few days, however Lee is expected to remain a powerful hurricane through early next week," the advisory said. No coastal watches or warnings are in effect.
Lee created swells that were affecting portions of the Lesser Antilles and were forecast to reach the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Bahamas and Bermuda over the weekend.
“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” the advisory said.
Lee will bring high surf and dangerous rip currents to the U.S. East Coast as early as Sunday, and could worsen through the week.
There is still some uncertainty about Lee’s exact path as it depends on steering currents. However, models show it's headed toward Bermuda and then to the north.