Sept. 24 (UPI) — Hurricane Sam intensified Friday afternoon as it moved westward through the open Atlantic Ocean en route to the Caribbean, forecasters said.
In its 5 p.m. EDT update, the National Hurricane Center said the storm was located about 1,290 miles east-southeast of the Northern Leeward Islands. It had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and was moving west at 12 mph.
The NHC said that Sam is expected to rapidly intensify in the coming days.
“Rapid intensification is forecast over the next several days, and Sam is expected to become a major hurricane onSaturday.,” the NHC said in its update Friday.
A storm becomes a major hurricane once it reaches Category 3, which has wind speeds of between 111 mph and 129 mph.
Sam is on a track that could impact the southeastern United States late next week or the week after.
Sam is the 18th named storm and the seventh hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season.