FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Hurricane Sam, the seventh hurricane of the 2021 season, maintained its Category 1 wind speed of 75 miles per hour late Friday morning, but the storm is expected to rapidly intensify again in the next few days, the National Hurricane Center said.
Sam could become a major hurricane by early Saturday, which means winds of at least 111 mph.
If Sam reaches that threshold, it would become the fourth major hurricane of 2021. And that’s not likely to be the end of its growth.
Forecasters predict Sam could hit Category 4 status, which means 130 mph winds, by the end of the weekend.
“The large scale environmental conditions all appear favorable for continued rapid intensification during the next day or so,” forecasters said.
Sam underwent rapid intensification, defined as a wind increase of at least 35 mph in a 24-hour period, over the previous 24 hours as it grew from a tropical depression into a hurricane.
As of the 11 a.m. update, the system was about 1,365 miles east-southeast of the eastern Caribbean and moving west at 14 mph. Hurricane-force winds extend 15 miles from Sam’s center and tropical-storm-force winds extend 60 miles from its center.
It is still unclear whether Sam will affect Florida or any part of the United States. But forecasters said a fast-developing storm, which accurately describes Sam, raises the likelihood it will miss Florida.
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.
AccuWeather forecasters said Sam could run into disruptive wind shear next week if it takes a path near the Bahamas and Cuba.