Tropical Storm Fiona pushes west, NHC tracking 2 more systems

Tropical Storm Fiona pushes west, NHC tracking 2 more systems

The Leeward Islands are preparing for heavy rain as Tropical Storm Fiona is expected to reach the Caribbean chain of islands Friday afternoon and evening. Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center is following two more tropical systems in the Atlantic.

As of the NHC’s 8 am advisory, Fiona was located about 175 miles east of Guadeloupe with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph Thursday. The system is moving west at 15 mph with tropical storm-force winds extending out 125 miles.

Tropical storm warnings, which mean 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, St. Barthelemy, and St. Martin

A tropical storm watch is also in effect for the British Virgin Islands.

Following in Fiona’s path, a tropical wave was detected Thursday midway between the west coast of Africa and the Lesser Antilles islands. The weather system is producing disorganized showers and is predicted to slowly develop late this weekend and early next week when it turns northward over the central Atlantic. The NHC gives it a 20% of forming in the five days.

Also, 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 disorganized showers and thunderstorms. The system is expected to remain disorganized due to upper-level winds preventing it from developing into a tropical cyclone, the NHC said.

The two systems’ recent emergence coincides with Colorado State University’s release of its tropical prediction for the next two weeks, saying the tropics could get much busier with a 50% chance of above-average activity taking place. CSU also gave a 40% chance of normal activity taking place and a 10% chance of below-average activity.

On Wednesday night, Fiona became a tropical storm when satellite data showed Tropical Depression 7 had strengthened, maintaining maximum sustained winds greater than 39 mph. It is not yet known if the tropical storm would impact Florida or the mainland United States.

Most projected storm paths show Fiona making a hard bend northeast away from the Sunshine State. The latest five-day track has its cone of uncertainty over the Turks and Caicos and approaching the southern Bahamas by Tuesday with tastes of up to 85 mph.

Fiona remains on track to bring heavy rain to the Leeward Islands tonight. Then, the storm is forecast near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Saturday and Sunday. At that point, Fiona’s path makes a turn toward the northwest, which could bring it to Hispaniola early Monday where it could interact with the Hispaniola mountain range. The mountainous terrain is historically known to weaken tropical storm organization and tear up wind structures.

“However, there are some indications that the environmental conditions could become more conducive for strengthening as the storm moves into the eastern Caribbean this weekend,” said Brad Reinhart, an NHC specialist.

Storm predictions show Fiona’s winds growing in power to about 70 mph at 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 prediction of the tropics.

As for the immediate impact, the Caribbean islands are expected to have heavy rain through the weekend with Hispaniola receiving a maximum total of 12 inches. Showers on the Leeward Islands are expected to accumulate 4 to 6 inches of rain this evening.

“This rainfall may produce considerable flood impacts including flash and urban flooding, along with mudslides in areas of higher terrain,” Reinhart said.

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