Tropical Storm Fiona approaching Caribbean islands; flooding, mudslides possible in Puerto Rico

Tropical Storm Fiona approaching Caribbean islands; flooding, mudslides possible in Puerto Rico

Published September 16, 2022
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Tropical Storm Fiona maintains its strength in the Atlantic with 50 mph winds. 

The FOX Forecast Center warns conditions on some northeastern Caribbean islands could start to deteriorate later Friday as Tropical Storm Fiona approaches from the tropical Atlantic.

As of Friday morning, Fiona remained disorganized with maximum sustained winds of about 50 mph. Some slight strengthening is expected over the next few days.

Fiona’s wind and rain impacts are expected to spread from the northeastern Caribbean islands westward through Puerto Rico and Hispañiola through Sunday.

HOW TO WATCH FOX WEATHER ON TV

Tropical Storm Fiona is centered less than 200 miles east of the northeastern Caribbean islands and is producing a large area of showers and thunderstorms, mainly to the east of its center or circulation.

A tropical storm is a tropical cyclone that has maximum sustained winds between 39 and 73 mph. Once a tropical storm forms, the National Hurricane Center gives it a name off one of six rotating lists.

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? TROPICAL DEPRESSION VS. TROPICAL STORM VS. HURRICANE

Tropical Storm Watches and Warnings have been issued for several island nations in the northeastern Caribbean ahead of the arrival of gusty winds and heavy rain associated with Tropical Storm Fiona.

The Tropical Storm Watches include Puerto Rico, and the British and U.S. Virgin Islands.

A Tropical Storm Warning means sustained winds of 39 mph or higher are expected within the next 36 hours. The NHC warns tropical-storm-force winds will begin in the warning areas on Friday evening.

A Tropical Storm Watch means sustained winds of 39 mph or higher are possible within the next 48 hours. The NHC warns tropical-storm-force winds are possible in the watch areas on Saturday and Saturday night.

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Tropical Storm Fiona is expected to generally move westward through early Sunday before turning toward the west-northwest later Sunday.

According to the FOX Forecast Center, Fiona will move across the northeastern Caribbean islands on Friday night and early Saturday, then track near or just south of the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico from late Saturday into Sunday.

Some slight strengthening is expected over the next few days, and Fiona could be near hurricane strength (74-plus mph) as it approaches the Dominican Republic late Sunday and early Monday.

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“The official track from the National Hurricane Center has kept (Fiona) a little bit farther to the south in comparison to what we had yesterday. That does allow Fiona to tap into some very warm waters,” FOX Weather meteorologist Britta Merwin said. “You will notice that has impacted the intensity of this forecast. Now we’re calling for 70-mph winds, which is just below hurricane strength.”

Jamie Rhome, Acting Director at the National Hurricane Center, provides an update on Tropical Storm Fiona and what people should expect from the storm. 

Gusty winds and heavy rain are forecast to reach the northeastern Caribbean islands by Friday evening, then spread to the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Saturday. Fiona’s wind and rain are likely to reach the Dominican Republic on Sunday and the Turks and Caicos by Monday night or Tuesday. 

Flood Watches have been issued for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands from Friday evening through Monday afternoon. 

WATER FROM HURRICANES, TROPICAL STORMS KILLS MORE IN U.S. THAN WIND

Tropical Storm Fiona is expected to dump 3 to 6 inches of rain across the northeastern Caribbean islands, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Isolated rainfall totals up to 10 inches are possible across eastern and southern Puerto Rico.

In the eastern Dominican Republic and the Turks and Caicos, between 4 and 8 inches of rain is forecast, with isolated maximum totals as high as 15 inches in the higher terrain.

The FOX Forecast Center noted that recent rainfall has saturated the soils in Puerto Rico, so the heavy rain from Fiona could lead to flooding in urban areas and small streams, as well as trigger mudslides in the archipelago’s mountainous terrain.

Other island nations from the northeastern Caribbean through the Turks and Caicos will also have a threat of flash and urban flooding, along with the potential for mudslides in areas of higher terrain. The highest risk of mudslides is in southern Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic.

It remains uncertain exactly where Tropical Storm Fiona will track after passing the Dominican Republic. The FOX Forecast Center says the chances of any U.S. impacts are currently low, though they cannot be ruled out entirely. However, any threat to Florida or the U.S. East Coast would be at least a week away.

A dip in the jet stream is forecast to move over Florida and the Bahamas early next week, which should provide an opening for Fiona to turn northward.

If Fiona tracks south of Puerto Rico and avoids the mountains of the Dominican Republic, it is more likely to remain a stronger storm and make this northward turn, which would increase the odds of Fiona moving out into the open waters of the Atlantic and staying away from the U.S.

However, if Fiona tracks closer to those islands and is weakened after interacting with the mountains of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, the tropical storm will have a better chance of staying west and closer to Florida or the U.S. East Coast.

The various possibilities of Fiona’s track overlaid on the five-day forecast cone of uncertainty are shown on the map below, and you can see there’s quite a spread among the computer forecast models. Be sure to check back with FOX Weather for updates over the next several days as the details become clearer.

WHAT IS THE CONE OF UNCERTAINTY IN HURRICANE FORECASTS?

In the western Atlantic Ocean, a low-pressure system centered a few hundred miles west-northwest of Bermuda is producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms.

This system is expected to move east to east-southeastward at 10 to 15 mph, and development into a tropical depression or tropical storm is not expected due to strong upper-level winds.

In the central Atlantic Ocean, the northern end of a tropical disturbance is producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms.

According to the FOX Forecast Center, some slow development of this disturbance is possible early next week while it moves northwestward to northward over the central subtropical Atlantic.

The NHC currently gives the tropical disturbance a low chance of development in the next five days.

WHERE TROPICAL STORMS AND HURRICANES TYPICALLY OCCUR DURING EACH MONTH OF ATLANTIC HURRICANE SEASON

Early to mid-September is the time of the season when sea-surface temperatures are the warmest, upper-level winds relax and drier air is typically not widespread.

Unlike recent active years, dry air has been more dominant than usual across the eastern parts of the Atlantic Basin, which has stunted the organization and development of tropical cyclones.

A table showing an alphabetical list of the 2022 Atlantic tropical cyclone names as selected by the World Meteorological Organization. The official Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

(FOX Weather)

August ended without seeing a single tropical cyclone in the Atlantic Basin for only the second time in the satellite era.

HURRICANE SEASON 2022: AUGUST FINISHES WITHOUT ANY NAMED STORMS FOR FIRST TIME IN DECADES

During an average year, nine named storms and four hurricanes have typically already formed by now, but so far in 2022, the tally stands at just six named storms and two hurricanes.