Tropical Storm Leslie is now a hurricane and is the sixth of the 2012 Atlantic season, according to US forecasters. The storm was upgraded to a category 1 on Wednesday afternoon.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami advised around 5 pm EDT that they had bumped Leslie from a tropical storm to a hurricane after it posted sustained winds of 75 mph, inching north at just 2 mph, reports UPI.
During their advisory, the National Hurricane Center added that Leslie’s eye was 460 miles south-southeast of Bermuda, making it too far out to see to begin coastal watches or warnings.
The now category 1 Hurricane Leslie is expected to gradually gain strength as it slowly moves north to north-northwest, moving erratically at times. The storm is kicking out hurricane-force gales as far away from its center as 25 miles with tropical storm-force winds being recorded as far as 230 miles away.
Forecasters anticipate the storm reaching category 2 force by Friday. Bermuda will likely be affected by dangerous swells and rip currents that have been generated by Hurricane Leslie. They are also expected to affect the US East Coast, the northern Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands over the next several days.
The Washington Post notes that, with Leslie now a hurricane, the 2012 Atlantic season has seen the average number of hurricanes in an entire season less than halfway through. The NOAA updated its hurricane forecast to call for 5-8 hurricanes, 2 to 3 of which will be major (category 3 or higher).
While the season has yet to see a major hurricane, Leslie has the potential to strengthen into one, with the National Hurricane Center predicting the storm’s winds to peak at 110 mph (category 3 storms must have maximum winds of at least 111 mph).