TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Sam, the 18th named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, reached hurricane strength Friday morning.
Hurricane Sam strengthened from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph maximum sustained winds as of 5 a.m. ET, according to the National Hurricane Center. Sam is about 1,470 miles east-southeast of the Northern Leeward Islands and currently poses no threat to land.
Rapid intensification is now forecast, according to the NHC, and Sam is expected to become a major hurricane by Friday night or early Saturday.
The storm is moving west over the Atlantic at about 15 mph but is expected to slow down over the weekend as it turns to the west-northwest.
Sam is the seventh hurricane of the year after Elsa, Grace, Henri, Ida, Larry and Nicholas.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic basin, the NHC is monitoring three areas for potential tropical development.
The first area is the remnants of Odette, now described as a “gale-force, non-tropical low pressure system.” The system is just more than 600 miles west-northwest of the westernmost Azores and only has a “brief window of opportunity to become a subtropical or tropical cyclone” as it moves over warmer waters, according to the NHC. Forecasters have given the system a medium 40 percent chance of development.
The second area being monitored is a large area of showers and thunderstorms a couple hundred miles east of Bermuda. The NHC says there could be some tropical or subtropical development before it’s forecast to meet strong upper-level winds on Saturday. The disturbance has been given a 20 percent chance of development.
A tropical wave is the third area being watched. According to a tropical weather outlook issued Friday morning, the wave is expected to move off the coast of Africa by the end of the weekend. Once it does, environmental conditions are expected to be conducive for gradual development. A tropical depression could form by the middle of next week, according to the NHC. Forecasters have given it a low, near zero percent of formation through 48 hours and a medium 40 percent chance of formation through five days.
There are now just three names left on the list for the 2021 hurricane season: Teresa, Victor and Wanda. If the names on the regular list run out, any additional storms will be named using an alternate list of names that was approved this year by the World Meteorological Organization. In the past, storms were given names using the Greek Alphabet.