National Hurricane Center: Fiona could cause 'life-threatening flooding' across Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is bracing for Tropical Storm Fiona, as the National Hurricane Center stated late Saturday afternoon that "life-threatening flooding and mudslides" are possible across the island over the next few days due to the storm.

As of 11 p.m. Saturday, the National Hurricane Center stated  Fiona is likely to strengthen and become a hurricane before reaching the southern coast of Puerto Rico on Sunday.

Additional strengthening is expected on Monday and Tuesday, as Fiona moves over the southwestern Atlantic, according to the NHC.

Late Saturday afternoon, tropical storm conditions are beginning to reach the Virgin Islands, according to the NHC, and are expected to spread westward and reach Puerto Rico later tonight.

The National Hurricane Center also is monitoring  two tropical waves, including a new one that popped up Friday morning off the coast of the Carolinas.

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Most models put Fiona moving to the west toward Puerto Rico and Hispaniola before taking a northly path east of Florida, but forecasters warn that the path could shift either east or west depending on conditions.

Several factors will determine Fiona's intensity over the coming days and into next week, including wind shear, dry air and the impact land has over the tropical storm.

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AccuWeather forecasters expect wind shear in the Gulf of Mexico and nearby steering winds to shift Fiona into a northly path after it reaches the Bahamas.

If it does, early predictions are that Fiona could miss the U.S., staying off the East Coast. However, with Fiona still more than a week away, weather patterns can change, including a southward dip in the jet stream.

This could allow Fiona to wander close to the Atlantic coast of the U.S. next weekend and beyond, AccuWeather forecasters said.

Residents along the Florida's East Coast, along with coastal residents north of the state, were advised to closely monitor Fiona's progress.

Here's the latest update from the NHC as of 11 p.m. Sept. 17:

Tropical Storm Fiona

  • Location: 75 miles south of St. Croix; 150 miles southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico

  • Maximum wind speed: 60 mph

  • Direction: WNW at 8 mph

  • Next advisory:  5 a.m. ET

At 11 p.m., the center of Tropical Storm Fiona was located 75 miles south of St. Croix and 145 miles southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico. Fiona is moving toward the west-northwest near 8 mph, and is moving somewhat "erratically," the NHC report stated. A northwestward motion is expected to begin Sunday and continue through Tuesday.

On the forecast track, the center of Fiona is expected to move south of the U.S. Virgin Islands this evening, approach Puerto Rico tonight, and then move near or over Puerto Rico Sunday afternoon or Sunday evening. Fiona is then expected to be offshore of the Dominican Republic on Monday and near or to the east of the Turks and Caicos on Tuesday.

Data from Air Force Reserve and NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicate that maximum sustained winds are near 60 mph, with higher gusts. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 140 miles from the center.

A hurricane warning is in effect for:

  • Puerto Rico, including Vieques and Culebra

A hurricane watch is in effect for:

  • U.S. Virgin Islands

  • south coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano westward to Cabo Caucedo

  • north coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano westward to Puerto Plata

A tropical storm warning is in effect for:

  • Saba and St. Eustatius

  • U.S. Virgin Islands

  • British Virgin Islands

  • south coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano westward to Cabo Caucedo

  • north coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano westward to Puerto Plata

A tropical storm watch is in effect for:

  • south coast of the Dominican Republic west of Cabo Caucedo to Barahona

The National Hurricane Center said interests in the Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas should also monitor the progress of Fiona.

Spaghetti models for Tropical Storm Fiona

See the latest models on where Tropical Storm Fiona could go.

Colorado State University's 2-week forecast for Sept. 15-28

Colorado State University's hurricane forecast Sept. 15-28 gives the highest odds for above-normal activity — 50% — with lower odds for normal — 40% — and below-normal  — 10%.

When is the Atlantic hurricane season?

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

When is the peak of hurricane season?

Hurricane season's ultimate peak is Sept. 10 but the season goes through Nov. 30. Credit: NOAA
Hurricane season's ultimate peak is Sept. 10 but the season goes through Nov. 30. Credit: NOAA

Although the season has gotten off to a quiet start, the peak of the season is Sept. 10, with the most activity happening between mid-August and mid-October, according to the Hurricane Center.

Weather watches and warnings issued for your area

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Tropical forecast next five days

See the National Hurricane Center's five-day graphical tropical weather outlook below.

Excessive rainfall forecast

What's out there?

5-day outlook as of Sept. 17
5-day outlook as of Sept. 17

Systems currently being monitored by the National Hurricane Center.

What's next?

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This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Tropical Storm Fiona: Puerto Rico bracing for floods, mudslides