Tropical Storm Fiona is expected to strengthen as it moves near the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic this weekend– and it could be close to hurricane strength as it approaches the latter two, forecasters say.
Hurricane watches were issued Saturday for Puerto Rico and parts of the Dominican Republic to reflect forecasters’ suspicions that they could see hurricane conditions – sustained winds of at least 74 mph – sometime this weekend.
“Fiona could be near hurricane strength when it moves near Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic this weekend,” and it could reach hurricane status itself before reaching the Dominican Republic early Monday, the National Hurricane Center said early Saturday.
Fiona, having whipped Guadeloupe and other northeastern Caribbean islands with heavy rain and strong winds Friday and early Saturday, was centered over the Caribbean about 145 miles southeast of St. Croix of the US Virgin Islands as of 8 a.m. ET Saturday, the NHC said.
It had maximum sustained winds of 60 mph – short of the 74 mph threshold for a Category 1 hurricane, though strengthening is expected as the weekend progresses.
Fiona’s center is expected to move near or just south of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Saturday and Sunday, and approach the Dominican Republic’s southern or eastern coast on Sunday night and Monday, the hurricane center said.
Tropical storm conditions – including winds of at least 39 mph – were expected to reach the US and British Virgin Islands starting Saturday morning, hit Puerto Rico Saturday afternoon and night, and reach parts of the Dominican Republic on Sunday, the hurricane center said.
Fiona became a tropical storm over the Atlantic on Wednesday before entering the eastern Caribbean on Friday.
Fiona’s heavy rain may lead to flooding and mudslides this weekend.
“These rains are likely to produce flash and urban flooding, along with mudslides in areas of higher terrain, particularly in southern and eastern Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic,” the hurricane center said.
Localized coastal flooding also is possible elsewhere in Puerto Rico, as well as in the US Virgin Islands, according to the hurricane center.
Here is how much rain is expected in each location, according to the hurricane center:
• Leeward Islands, including Guadeloupe, and the northern Windward Islands: 2-4 inches on top of what they’ve already received.
• British and US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico: 4-6 inches, with isolated areas of 10 inches possible.
• Puerto RIco: 5-10 inches, with isolated areas of 16 inches possible.
• Dominican Republic: 4-8 inches, with isolated areas of 12 inches possible. particularly on the far eastern coast.
• Haiti: 1-3 inches, with isolated maximum totals of 4 inches.
• Turks and Caicos: 4-10 inches.
This is the first time in more than three years that Puerto Rico has been issued a hurricane watch or warning. The last time was in August 2019, when Hurricane Dorian passed the island as a Category 1 storm.
A few tropical storms have passed the island since then, but Dorian was the last storm at hurricane strength to pass within 50 miles, CNN meteorologists said.