Sep 16, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Tropical Storm warning for Puerto Rico as Fiona nears

Satellite image showing Tropical Storm Fiona nearing the French island of Guadeloupe.
Satellite image of Tropical Storm Fiona on Sept. 16, 2022. (CIRA/RAMMB)

Tropical Storm Fiona is nearing the French island of Guadeloupe, and is forecast to pass close enough to Puerto Rico this weekend to bring tropical storm conditions and up to a foot of rain.

The big picture: The storm, which packed maximum sustained winds of 50 mph as of 5 p.m. ET, is forecast to slowly intensify, possibly to the cusp of hurricane intensity, before making landfall in the Dominican Republic on Sunday night into early Monday morning.

Tropical storm warnings, indicating tropical storm force winds (39-73 mph) are likely somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours, are in effect for:

  • Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, and Anguilla, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten. Guadeloupe, St. Barthelemy, and St. Martin. Puerto Rico, including Vieques and Culebra. U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.
  • Parts of the Dominican Republic are under a tropical storm watch.
  • While the storm's winds may cause damage to trees and poorly built structures, heavy rains, flooding and mudslides are T.S. Fiona's greatest threat. This is particularly the case in the mountainous terrain of Hispaniola as well as Puerto Rico.
Data: National Hurricane Center; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios
Data: National Hurricane Center; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios

Zoom in: Tropical Storm Fiona has been battling against a hostile environment for days, with strong upper-level winds shearing off the main region of thunderstorms away from the center of circulation.

  • Yet the storm has been maintaining and lately, even improving its structure. Until Friday afternoon, the tropical storm had been moving a bit south of west, which has implications for how close it may come to the U.S. mainland.
  • Conditions are expected to become more favorable for the storm to intensify as it slides just south of Puerto Rico and nears the Dominican Republic late Sunday.
  • Then as it spins towards the Bahamas early next week, computer models are hinting that it is likely to intensify, possibly into a Category 1 hurricane by Wednesday.
  • However, 5-day hurricane intensity forecasts are less reliable compared to storm track forecasts at that time frame. The National Weather Service is working to narrow this gap through computer modeling, in-situ storm observations and other initiatives.

Yes, but: It's not yet clear how significant a threat this storm poses to the Bahamas, given that the right conditions in the atmosphere could allow it to intensify quickly north of Hispaniola.

  • It is also not yet known how significant a threat the storm poses to the East Coast of the U.S.
  • By Wednesday, there may be a pathway for the storm to curve north-northeastward, out to sea, between a cold front moving in from the west, and an area of high pressure to the east.
  • The corridor in between these two weather systems may provide an offramp of sorts for this storm.

The bottom line: It will take a couple more days for the long-term track forecast to become clearer.

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