As Tropical Storm Fiona moves west toward the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, the National Hurricane Center has issued a tropical storm warning for both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, predicting that it will become a hurricane next week. Meanwhile, the NHC is tracking two more tropical systems in the Atlantic.
Fiona was located about 75 miles east of Guadeloupe with maximum sustained winds to the west at 14 mph, the NHC reported at 2 p.m. Its tropical storm-force winds extend 140 miles.
The outer band of the Caribbean’s Leeward Islands is set for heavy rain today as Fiona is due to pass over them this afternoon and evening.
The system’s updated track predicts it will move away from Florida, but will increase in hurricane strength on Wednesday as its center is between the Turks and Caicos Islands, south of the Bahamas. In the near future, it is expected to pass over Puerto Rico and the southern US Virgin Islands over the weekend before reaching near hurricane strength in the Dominican Republic on the eastern side of Hispaniola on Monday.
Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Guadeloupe, St. Barthelemy, St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands. Tropical storm watches were in effect for Dominica and parts of the Dominican Republic.
Following Fiona’s track, a tropical wave was detected between the west coast of Africa and the Lesser Antilles on Thursday. The weather system is producing scattered showers and thunderstorms and is forecast to develop slowly as it turns northward over the central subtropical Atlantic this weekend and early next week. The NHC gives it 20% of formation in five days.
Additionally, the NHC is tracking a frontal low over the western Atlantic several hundred miles west-northwest of Bermuda that emerged early Friday morning. Scattered showers and thunderstorms are expected in the lower east east-southeast at 10-15 mph. The system is expected to remain disorganized due to upper-level winds preventing it from becoming a tropical cyclone, the NHC said, giving it only a 10% chance of formation over the next two to five days.
The recent emergence of the two systems coincides with Colorado State University issuing its tropical forecast for the next two weeks, which said the tropics could get busier with a 50% chance of above-average activity. CSU also gave a 40% chance of normal activity occurring and a 10% chance of below-average activity.
Fiona became a tropical storm Wednesday night when satellite data showed Tropical Depression 7 had strengthened, packing maximum sustained winds of more than 39 miles per hour. It is not yet known whether the tropical storm will affect Florida or the United States.
Most forecast storm tracks show Fiona making a sharp turn northeast of the Sunshine State as it moves across Hispaniola, where it may interact with the Hispaniola Mountain Range. Highlands have historically been known to weaken tropical storm organization and break up wind structures.
The NHC, on the other hand, says once again that it could pick up steam to become the third hurricane of the season, currently forecast to be a Category 1 with winds of 75 mph but gusts of up to 90 mph.
“However, there are some indications that environmental conditions may become more favorable for intensification as the storm moves into the eastern Caribbean this weekend,” NHC expert Brad Reinhart said.
Storm forecasts indicate that Fiona’s winds will reach about 70 mph at the same time as it passes over Hispaniola.
Global models suggest Fiona could even become a hurricane, according to CSU’s two-week forecast for the tropics.
As for the immediate impact, the Caribbean islands are expected to receive heavy rain over the weekend, with Hispaniola receiving a maximum of just 12 inches. Showers in the Leeward Islands are expected to total 4 to 6 inches this evening.
“This precipitation could cause significant flooding impacts, including flash flooding and urban flooding, along with mudslides in higher elevations,” Reinhart said.
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