Hurricane Sam Path, Update as East Coast Residents Warned of 'Significant Swells'

Forecasters have warned that Hurricane Sam may have a "life-threatening" impact on the East Coast of the United States by the weekend.

While it is still uncertain if the seventh hurricane of the season will score a direct hit on Florida or parts of the U.S., the National Hurricane Center (NHC) has said that swells may be felt on the American coast in the coming days.

Sam had weakened to a Category 3 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 125 mph by 11 a.m. EDT Monday, but by Tuesday, had strengthened to Category 4 status again.

In its 5 a.m. advisory Tuesday, the NHC said Sam was generating large swells which were impacting the Leeward Islands, and by Thursday or Friday will spread to parts of the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Bahamas, and Bermuda.

But even as experts voiced growing confidence that the storm would not directly strike the U.S., beachgoers could still be impacted.

"Significant swells will likely reach the east coast of the United States and Atlantic Canada by the weekend," the NHC advisory said, "these swells will likely cause life-threatening surge and rip current conditions."

The NHC urged people going to the coast to follow the advice of lifeguards and local officials over the weekend.

Sam is located 610 miles east of the Leeward Islands and is tracking to the northwest at 9 mph. Its reach is relatively small, with hurricane-force winds extending outward up to 40 miles from its center.

The NHC is now tracking three other systems in the mid-Atlantic that have the potential to become the season's next tropical storm in a season so busy that there are only two names left on the 2021 Atlantic hurricane list—Victor and Wanda.

Meanwhile, Sam is the fifth storm this season to have gone through rapid intensification, following Elsa, Grace, Ida and Larry.

Hurricane Sam
This graphic shows Hurricane Sam's position in the Atlantic Ocean. The National Hurricane Center says it may cause swells on the East Coast of the U.S. NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER

"Low wind shear and high water temperatures will continue to fuel the intense hurricane," AccuWeather senior meteorologist Alan Reppert said as forecasters keep an eye on whether it will take swipes at parts of the Caribbean.

Another expert from AccuWeather, Dan Pydynowski, said even though Sam is likely to pass by the north and northeast of the northern Leeward Islands, "rough surf, high waves and rip currents will impact the shores of the islands over the next several days,"

This means the risk of rip currents will extend to shorelines beyond the Leeward Islands as Sam tracks north over the open Atlantic.

"Rough surf and rip currents are likely to reach much of the eastern coast of the U.S. later this week," Pydynowski added, with the Atlantic coast from central Florida to Maine seeing building surf and increasing rip currents from mid-week.