The Leeward Islands are bracing for heavy rain as Tropical Storm Fiona is expected to hit the Caribbean island chain on Friday afternoon and evening. Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center is tracking two other tropical systems in the Atlantic.
At the time of the 8 a.m. advisory from the NHC, Fiona was located about 175 miles east of Guadeloupe with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph on Thursday. The system is moving west at 15 mph with tropical storm force winds extending 125 miles.
Tropical storm warnings, which signify a threat within 36 hours, were in place for the Caribbean islands of Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Guadeloupe , Saint-Barthélemy, and Saint-Martin
A tropical storm watch is also in effect for the British Virgin Islands.
Following Fiona’s path, a tropical wave was detected midway between the west coast of Africa and the islands of the Lesser Antilles on Thursday. The weather system is producing disorganized showers and is expected to develop slowly late this weekend and early next week as it turns north over the central Atlantic. The NHC gives him 20% training within five days.
Additionally, the NHC is now monitoring a frontal low over the western Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles west-northwest of Bermuda, which emerged Friday morning. The low is expected to move east at 10 to 15 mph while producing showers and disorganized thunderstorms. The system is expected to remain disorganized due to upper winds preventing it from developing into a tropical cyclone, the NHC said.
The recent emergence of both systems coincides with Colorado State University releasing its tropical forecast for the next two weeks, saying the tropics could become much busier with a 50% chance of above average activity. CSU also gave 40% chance of normal activity and 10% chance of below average activity.
On Wednesday evening, Fiona became a tropical storm when satellite data showed Tropical Depression 7 had strengthened, maintaining maximum sustained winds above 39 mph. It is not yet known if the tropical storm would affect Florida or the mainland United States.
Most projected storm tracks show Fiona making a sharp northeast turn away from the Sunshine State. The latest five-day track has its cone of uncertainty over the Turks and Caicos Islands and approaches the southern Bahamas by Tuesday with gusts of up to 85 mph.
Fiona remains on track to bring heavy rain to the Leeward Islands this evening. Then the storm is forecast near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Saturday and Sunday. At this point, Fiona’s path makes a northwest turn, which could bring her to Hispaniola early Monday where she could interact with the Hispaniola mountain range. The mountainous terrain has historically been known to weaken the organization of tropical storms and tear apart wind-powered structures.
“However, there are indications that environmental conditions may become more favorable for strengthening as the storm moves through the eastern Caribbean this weekend,” said NHC specialist Brad Reinhart.
Storm forecasts show Fiona’s winds increasing in strength to around 70 mph around the same time it would finish passing 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 experience heavy rain throughout the weekend, with Hispaniola receiving a maximum total of 12 inches. Showers over the Leeward Islands are expected to rack up 4 to 6 inches of rain this evening.
“This rainfall can produce significant flood impacts including flash and urban flooding, as well as landslides in areas of higher ground,” Reinhart said.