U.S. Markets open in 7 hrs 57 mins

Hurricane Jose has officially become a major Category 3 storm with 120-mph winds

Emily Cohn and Dana Varinsky
Hurricane Jose skitch

(CIRA/RAMMB; GOES-16/NOAA)

Hurricane Jose is gaining strength as it moves through the Atlantic and has officially become a major hurricane — defined as Category 3 or above.

The tropical storm was named on Tuesday and became a Category 1 hurricane on Wednesday afternoon when its maximum sustained winds hit 75 mph. As of 5 p.m. Thursday, its maximum sustained wind speeds had increased to 120 mph, bumping it up to Category 3. The storm is about 590 miles east of the Lesser Antilles, a collection of islands in the Caribbean Sea, and is moving northwest at 18 mph.

The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane watch for the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda, both of which have already been devastated by Hurricane Irma, which hit early Wednesday. A tropical storm watch has been issued for the islands of Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saba, and St. Eustatius.

Jose's path is not forecast to be as dangerous or destructive as Irma's, however. The NHC suggests it's likely to curve northwest, which would mean the brunt of the storm's force would miss Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, and Florida — though it's too early to know for sure what the storm will do.

Hurricane jose forecast

(National Hurricane Center)

Although forecasters are closely watching Jose, Irma remains the most pressing concern, since the "potentially catastrophic" Category 5 storm is heading for Florida. Many parts of the state could be hit by the storm as early as Saturday morning. Parts of Florida, including the Keys and Miami, are already being evacuated.

Meanwhile, the US is still recovering from the devastating effects of Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall on August 25 and severely flooded parts of Texas and Louisiana. The storm dumped as much as 51.88 inches of rain in some spots and caused at least 60 deaths.

The peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is around September 10, so it's not uncommon for storms to form during this time of year. However, 2017 has been an unusually active year for hurricanes. Another hurricane, Katia, is now swirling off the coast of Mexico and is forecast to approach land on Friday or Saturday. Katia is already the season's sixth hurricane, though we don't typically see the fourth until around September 21.

NOW WATCH: Pilots flew straight into Hurricane Harvey and caught this incredible first-hand footage



More From Business Insider