- Tropical Storm Fiona will move through the northeastern Caribbean.
- It will produce flooding rain and strong wind gusts in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
- Fiona could become a hurricane when it is near Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
- It’s far too soon to tell if this system will ever become a mainland U.S. threat.
Tropical Storm Fiona is producing flooding rainfall and strong wind gusts in the northeastern Caribbean and it may strengthen into a hurricane as it tracks near Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Here’s what we know about Fiona’s threats to the Caribbean and what the storm could mean down the road for the mainland United States.
Latest Status And Forecast
Fiona’s center has entered the northeastern Caribbean after passing over Guadeloupe. Tropical-storm-force conditions will continue in the northern Leeward islands Saturday morning.
The storm continues to fight some unfavorable upper-level winds (wind shear) and dry air.
The worst of the rain and gusty winds are occurring on the central Lesser Antilles now after the center has passed because most of the thunderstorm activity is on the eastward side of the system due to wind shear.
On this track, Fiona will move near or just south of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this weekend, then into Hispaniola Sunday night or Monday. A slightly more favorable environment may allow for some intensification this weekend and Fiona could strengthen into a hurricane as it tracks near Puerto Rico and Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti).
After that, uncertainty grows because of that possible land interaction, but some intensification is expected once Fiona reaches the waters north of Hispaniola.
A hurricane watch has been issued for Puerto Rico, meaning hurricane conditions are possible within the next 48 hours.
Tropical storm warnings are in effect for the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Guadeloupe, St. Barthelemy and St. Martin and for portions of the Dominican Republic. Tropical storm conditions are expected in the warning area within 36 hours.
Tropical storm watches have been issued for portions of the southern coast of the Dominican Republic. This means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 48 hours.
Areas from the Leeward Islands to Puerto Rico to eastern Hispaniola to the Turks and Caicos could see rain totals of 4 to 10 inches (locally higher) from Fiona. That heavy rain could trigger dangerous flooding and mudslides this weekend into early next week, particularly over mountainous terrain. Up to 16 inches is possible, particularly across eastern and southern Puerto Rico.
Some modest storm surge is possible on east and south-facing shores this weekend in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Hispaniola. In addition, rip currents and rough surf are likely.
Is Fiona A Mainland U.S. Threat?
The bottom line is that the mainland U.S., especially from Florida to the rest of the Southeast coast, should just monitor the forecast for now since it’s too soon to tell if Fiona will eventually become a threat.
That’s because Fiona faces the obstacles mentioned earlier, including wind shear, dry air and potential track over some mountainous Caribbean islands such as Hispaniola.
Among the wide range of possibilities include:
-Intensifying sooner, and therefore curling north into the central Atlantic Ocean far off the U.S. East Coast, similar to Hurricane Earl last week.
-Minimal strengthening in the next several days, continuing west to west-northwest, then curling north later, much closer to or over the Bahamas and possibly the Southeast U.S. later next week.
For now, the National Hurricane Center forecast calls for Fiona to gain some strength by early next week, which would allow it to make a gradual northward turn near Hispaniola and the Turks and Caicos.
However, as frequently happens in hurricane season, this forecast may change. Check back with us at weather.com for the latest updates to this forecast in the days ahead.
Regardless of what happens, now is a good time to make sure you have a plan in place before a hurricane strikes. Information about hurricane preparedness can be found here.
More from weather.com:
12 Things You May Not Know About Your Hurricane Forecast
7 Things Florida Newcomers Should Know About Hurricane Season
The Florida Peninsula’s Luck Since Hurricane Irma Won’t Last
The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.