Tropical Storm Fiona could become a hurricane by the time it hits Puerto Rico on Sunday, bringing threats of flooding and mudslides, the latest update from the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm, already making landfall over Puerto Rico about 80 miles south of Ponce, is moving west with sustained winds of 65 mph, and heavy rain and tropical storm-force winds are already lashing the U.S. Virgin Islands and much of Puerto Rico. Rico
Fiona’s center, according to today’s forecast, is expected to approach Sunday morning before moving near or over southwestern Puerto Rico this afternoon or evening.
The impacts are already being felt, with more than 90,000 customers in Puerto Rico without power as of 7:30 a.m. Sunday, according to PowerOutage.us. St. Croix, a weather station at Teagues Bay reported a gust of 59 mph, while Henry E. Rohls Airport reported a gust of 55 mph.
Very heavy rains of 12 to 16 inches are expected over a large area of Puerto Rico, with most of the rain expected on Sunday, and up to 25 inches could be seen in isolated areas of southern and eastern Puerto Rico, the center of the hurricane. 4 to 8 inches of rain is also forecast for northern and eastern parts of the Dominican Republic, with isolated totals of up to 12 inches possible.
“These rains will cause life-threatening flooding and urban flooding in Puerto Rico and the eastern Dominican Republic, along with mudslides and mudslides in areas of higher ground,” the hurricane center said.
The storm surge poses another threat, and could raise water levels by more than 1 to 3 meters along the southern coast of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, where onshore winds will be strongest.
A hurricane warning, indicating that hurricane conditions are expected, was issued for Puerto Rico, including the islands of Vieques and Culebra, and later for the eastern Dominican Republic from Cabo Caucedo to Cabo Frances Viejo. The US Virgin Islands and the northern coast of the Dominican Republic, from Cabo Frances Viejo west to Puerto Plata, are under a hurricane watch Sunday morning, meaning hurricane conditions are possible for the next 48 hours.
The threat won’t end once the storm passes between Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic: further strengthening is expected, and the storm could become a Category 2 hurricane as it moves east of the Bahamas, where the government has issued a tropical storm watch. Bahamas southeast and tropical storm watch or Turks and Caicos Islands.
Turks and Caicos and southeastern Bahamas are likely to experience tropical storms late Monday or early Tuesday morning.