Image: National Hurricane Center. This image shows the projected arrival times of high winds in the Caribbean. However Tropical Storm Lee may change direction at any time and nothing is certain.

Tropical Storm Lee is expected to rapidly intensify into an “extremely dangerous” hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean by this weekend, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday morning, as the season approaches its September peak, when the ocean waters are at their warmest.

Lee could become a hurricane Wednesday then a major Category 3 storm or stronger by late this week, with the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean expected to feel its impacts over the weekend, forecasters said.

“Lee is not far from hurricane strength, and it likely will achieve that status later today,” the National Hurricane Center noted in its 5 a.m. update. “While it is too soon to determine the location and magnitude of these possible impacts, interests in this area should monitor the progress of Lee and further updates to the forecast.”

The tropical storm is packing maximum sustained winds of 65 mph and is about 1,300 miles east-southeast of the northern Leeward Islands, according to the hurricane center. The islands include the Virgin Islands, Saint Martin, and Antigua and Barbuda.

Swells generated by Lee are expected to reach portions of the Lesser Antilles on Friday. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions. Lee’s winds could reach 150 mph on Sunday evening, according to the hurricane center.

Any shifts along its track as it nears the islands could bring more of an impact there and beyond. Anyone in the eastern Caribbean – including the Leeward Islands, Puerto Rico and Hispaniola – as well as the Bahamas will need to keep a close eye on the forecast.

Source: CNN, National Hurricane Center.