(CNN)Earlier a tropical storm, Sam has strengthened into a hurricane and is expected to continue intensifying, the National Hurricane Center said Friday.
The storm is the seventh hurricane of the 2021 Atlantic season, with winds of 75 mph and even higher gusts, according to an NHC update Friday morning. Sam is forecast to become a major hurricane — Category 3 or higher — by Saturday afternoon. Sam started the day Thursday with winds of 35 mph and ended the day at 70 mph, signifying a rapid intensification, which occurs when a tropical cyclone strengthens by at least 35 mph in 24 hours. Moving to the west at 15 mph, Sam is approximately 1,470 miles east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands, churning in open seas. Impacts from the storm, however, may be felt next week.Over the next five days, Sam will move toward the Leeward Islands and turn slightly northward as it approaches the islands. Read More”What is not clear at this point is what impacts it will have on land,” CNN meteorologist Dave Hennen said. “Right now, it looks like it may pass north of the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico early next week, but that could change.”Noting what long-range computer models are showing, Hennen said, “Places like Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Bermuda and even the East Coast of the US need to watch the storm closely over the next week. The models don’t currently agree where the storm is headed, but do agree that it’s likely to be a powerful hurricane.”