Forecasters tracking Tropical Storm Fiona, second disturbance

Forecasters tracking Tropical Storm Fiona, second disturbance

Tropical Storm Fiona is forecast to reach near-hurricane strength, with top winds of 70 mph, as it clears the northeastern Caribbean and approaches the Bahamas.

Forecasters are also tracking a new disturbance that emerged Thursday night off the coast of Africa.

Fiona appears unlikely to be a threat to Florida, the National Weather Service said Thursday.

“The most likely path at this time is a northward turn early next week, away from Florida,” the weather service said.

The storm was producing top winds of 60 mph Thursday, with its center located about 385 miles east of the Caribbean and was moving west at 14 mph, according to an 8 pm update from the National Hurricane Center. Fiona’s tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles from the center.

The storm is forecast to steadily strengthen, with top winds reaching 70 mph, just shy of the 74-mph threshold for a Category 1 hurricane, by Tuesday. An aircraft used to investigate hurricanes flew over Fiona on Thursday afternoon, the hurricane center said.

Fiona formed late Wednesday, becoming the sixth named storm of the 2022 hurricane season. Fiona developed from Tropical Depression Seven, which formed in the Atlantic on Wednesday morning.

Forecasters said Fiona could move anywhere from eastern Cuba to the northeast of the Bahamas over the next five days.

Fiona will reach the Caribbean by Friday night, then near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this weekend. As of 5 pm Thursday, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands were under tropical storm watches, meaning tropical-storm conditions are possible within the next two days.

Tropical storm warnings were in place for several Caribbean islands, including St. Maarten, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, and Anguilla.

Fiona will be near Haiti and the Dominican Republic early next week, forecasters said, and tropical storm watches may go into effect for parts of the Hispaniola island Friday.

Fiona is expected to bring sea swells and 4 to 8 inches of rain, with isolated higher amounts.

As of 8 pm, a tropical wave halfway between the coast of Africa and east of the eastern Caribbean has low odds of developing in the next five days, the center’s latest advisory said. It could develop late in the weekend or early next week when it moves north over the Atlantic.

It’s now past the statistical peak of the Atlantic hurricane season with five previous named storms before Fiona. AccuWeather notes that “not a single hurricane has come within striking distance of the East Coast or Gulf Coast” this season.

The next storm to form would be Gaston.

“The Atlantic hurricane season’s slow pace so far in 2022 has … led to a startling disparity in the number of mainland US landfalls through mid-September compared to the last two years,” The Weather Channel reported.

Forecasters say dry air, Saharan dust and wind shear have been among the reasons there haven’t been more storms this year.

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“The lack of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic has been particularly noticeable considering recent hyperactive hurricane seasons with many impacts to the US and Caribbean. Even though the season overall may end up near average or even slightly below average, it only takes one storm to threaten lives and create a major disaster,” according to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter.

Hurricane Earl, which became the season’s second hurricane on Sept. 6, dissipated early Sunday. Earl was the season’s first Category 2 hurricane.

The last time a major hurricane hadn’t formed by Sept. 11 was in 2014, when Edouard became a Category 3 on Sept. 16. That season followed a 2013 where there were no major storms recorded.

Earl and Hurricane Danielle, were the first named storms to form in the Atlantic since early July, when Tropical Storm Colin formed offshore of the Carolinas.

This year marked only the third time since 1961 when no named storms formed in August.

The 2020 hurricane season set a record with 30 named systems, while 2021′s season was the third most active with 21 named systems. An average year calls for 14 named storms.

Hurricane season ends Nov. 30.

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