Sam is now a major hurricane but isn't likely to hit land

Hurricane Sam
National Hurricane Center

A storm brewing in the Atlantic is now a major hurricane, but forecasters say it currently poses little threat to land.

With wind speeds in excess of 120 miles per hour, Sam was a Category 3 hurricane and was expected to become a Category 4 (wind speeds between 130 and 156 miles per hour) by Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said. A storm with wind speeds higher than 110 mph is considered a major hurricane.

It's the fourth storm to receive such a designation this year, according to Andy Latto, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center.

As of late Saturday morning, Hurricane Sam was located about 1,000 miles east-southeast of the Northern Leeward Islands and about 630 miles northeast of the French Guiana coast, moving west-northwest at 10 miles per hour.

No coastal warnings or watches are in effect — and while Hurricane Sam is currently delivering strong winds, it's not likely to make landfall in the Caribbean or mainland United States.

"There's an upward trough — a cold front — going through the southeastern United States already," Latto told NPR. "The associated trough that helps drive that front will help turn this system to the north later on, sometime by the early to middle parts of next week."

Latto said there is a slight chance the hurricane would hit Bermuda, but modeling currently shows it's likely to miss the island.

He also noted that this is the time of the year when forecasters begin to shift their focus from the eastern Atlantic basin near Africa to the western part of the ocean.

"Even though something like Sam most likely won't be reaching the United States, keep vigilant and keep and eye on things — because there is always a secondary peak that comes from the western part of the basin later on," Latto said.

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