Tropical Storm Fiona is expected to reach near-hurricane strength as it clears the northeast Caribbean and approaches the Bahamas, with top winds of 70 mph.
Forecasters are also watching for a new disturbance that emerged off the African coast Thursday night.
Fiona is unlikely to pose a threat to Florida, the National Weather Service said on Thursday.
“The most likely route right now is a northward turn from Florida early next week,” the weather service said.
The storm was producing top winds of 60 mph Thursday, with its center located about 385 miles east of the Caribbean and moving west at 14 mph, according to an 8 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center. Fiona’s tropical storm-force winds extend up to 140 miles from the center.
The storm is forecast to strengthen steadily with top winds reaching 70 mph by Tuesday, just shy of the 74 mph threshold for a Category 1 hurricane. The hurricane center said a plane used to survey hurricanes flew over Fiona on Thursday afternoon.
[ STAY UPDATED with the latest forecast for tropical weather at SunSentinel.com/hurricane ]
Fiona formed late Wednesday and is the sixth named storm of the 2022 hurricane season. Fiona was developed from Tropical Depression Seven, which formed in the Atlantic Wednesday morning.
Forecasters said Fiona could move anywhere from eastern Cuba to the northeast of the Bahamas in the next five days.
Fiona will arrive in the Caribbean on Friday night, followed by the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this weekend. As of 5pm on Thursday, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands were under tropical storm bouts, meaning tropical storm conditions are possible over the next two days.
Tropical storm warnings have been issued for several Caribbean islands, including St. Petersburg. Maarten, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and Anguilla.
Forecasters said Fiona will be near Haiti and the Dominican Republic early next week, and tropical storm hours could come into effect for parts of the island of Hispaniola on Friday.
Fiona is expected to bring sea waves and 4 to 8 inches of rain, isolated in higher amounts.
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As of 8 p.m., a tropical wave midway between the African coast and the eastern Caribbean’s east is unlikely to develop over the next five days, according to the centre’s latest advisory. It can develop late on the weekend or early next week when it moves north over the Atlantic.
It crossed the statistical peak of the Atlantic hurricane season with five previously named storms before Fiona. AccuWeather states that “not a single hurricane has come within striking distance of the East Coast or Gulf Coast” this season.
The next storm to form will be Gaston.
“The slow pace of the Atlantic hurricane season so far in 2022 has led to a staggering disparity in the number of landfalls in the US mainland through mid-September compared to the past two years,” The Weather Channel reported.
Forecasters say dry air, Saharan dust and wind shear are among the reasons why there aren’t any more storms this year.
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“The absence of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic is particularly notable given the recent hyperactive hurricane seasons, which have had many impacts on the US and the Caribbean. While overall the season has been close to or even slightly below average, according to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter, Just one storm is enough to threaten lives and create a major disaster.”
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Hurricane Earl, the second hurricane of the season, in September. 6 disbanded early on Sunday. Earl was the first Category 2 hurricane of the season.
There was no major hurricane until the last September. 11 was in 2014, when Edouard became Category 3 on September 3. 16. That season followed a 2013 with no major storms recorded.
Hurricane Earl and Danielle were the first named storms to form in the Atlantic since early July when Tropical Storm Colin formed off the Carolinas.
This year marks only the third time since 1961, when no named storms formed in August.
The 2020 hurricane season set a record with 30 named systems, while the 2021 season was the third most active with 21 named systems. The average year requires 14 named storms.
Hurricane season ends in November. 30.
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