Hurricane Lee restrengthens, bringing dangerous surf conditions to U.S. East Coast

Hurricane Lee churns towards the Caribbean after intensifying into a major storm

(Reuters) -Hurricane Lee has restrengthened as it churns west-northwest in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and is expected to bring dangerous surf and rip currents to the U.S. East Coast from Sunday night for at least a few days, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The storm, about 285 miles (455 km) northeast of the northern Leeward Islands, should pass north of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean islands.

Lee was packing winds of 120 mph (195 kph), the forecaster said. It restrengthened to a Category 3 storm after being downgraded to Category 2 earlier on Sunday and could see additional strengthening during the next day or so, the National Hurricane Center said.

The forecaster said swells affecting portions of the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, Turks and Caicos, the Bahamas and Bermuda are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

Dangerous surf and rip currents have begun to reach portions of the U.S. southeast coast and could worsen and spread northward during the next couple of days.

Sunday appeared to be just another hot and humid late summer day in Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, where people walked by the beach or exercised, and businesses were open.

"So far it's just a normal day," Kelly Herrera, a guest service agent at the Condado Vanderbilt Hotel on San Juan's beach front, said in a phone interview.

Herrera said people were advised to stay away from the water in preparation for swells and dangerous rip currents generated by the storm.

The National Weather Service's office in Puerto Rico forecast waves of 6 to 10 feet, possibly higher, in some coastal areas.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Leslie Adler)