Hurricane Sam has strengthened into a Category 3 hurricane and continues to intensify in the central Atlantic Ocean. Sam became the fourth major hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season Saturday morning just 30 hours after it became a hurricane. Sam is still over 1,000 miles east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands moving west. Sam is a small hurricane with both its tropical-storm-force and hurricane-force winds covering a small area relative to other hurricanes. Rapid intensification, defined as an increase in maximum winds of at least 35 mph in 24 hours or less, is common in small hurricanes like Sam.
According to the latest computer forecast models, Sam may not reach the longitude of the Leeward Islands until next Thursday. It is increasingly likely that Sam will bypass the islands to the north, but the possibility of closer impacts remains on the table. Residents in the Leeward Islands should monitor the latest forecast for any possible changes.
Beyond that, the large majority of computer model forecasts eventually curl Sam away from the U.S. East Coast late next week or next weekend. That pattern would cause Sam to curl north, then northeastward into the central or western Atlantic Ocean, rather than simply plowing westward. Sam could at least generate high surf and rip currents along the East Coast more than a week from now even if it stays well offshore, as Hurricane Larry did earlier this month despite passing east of Bermuda.