Tropical Storm Fiona is poised to hit the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Saturday and could hit Puerto Rico as a hurricane on Sunday, posing a serious threat of flooding and mudslides to the larger U.S. territory, forecasters said.
A hurricane warning was issued for Puerto Rico on Saturday, reflecting forecasters’ belief that it will intensify into a hurricane — with sustained winds of at least 74 mph — near or over the island on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, hurricane watches are in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands and parts of the Dominican Republic, the National Hurricane Center said.
“Fiona’s center is expected to move toward or southward toward Puerto Rico Saturday night, and toward or over Puerto Rico Sunday night,” and then toward the Dominican Republic on Monday, the hurricane center said.
Forecasters said Fiona’s biggest threat could be the rain expected to dump in Puerto Rico: typically 12-16 inches, and 20 inches in remote areas there.
“These rains could lead to flash flooding and urban flooding, as well as mudslides in higher terrain, particularly southern and eastern Puerto Rico and eastern Dominican Republic,” the hurricane center said.
Fiona was hit by heavy rain and strong winds on Guadeloupe and other northeastern Caribbean islands early Friday and Saturday, centered on the Caribbean Sea, about 130 miles southeast of St. Petersburg. Croix Island, U.S. Virgin Islands, as of 11 a.m. ET Saturday, the NHC said.
It has maximum sustained winds of 60 mph – below the 74 mph threshold for a Category 1 hurricane, although it is expected to strengthen as the weekend progresses.
Tropical storm conditions — including winds of at least 39 mph — are expected to reach the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands starting Saturday afternoon and spread to Puerto Rico by Saturday night.
The Hurricane Center said hurricane conditions are expected in Puerto Rico on Sunday and Sunday night, and a possible hurricane in the U.S. Virgin Islands on Saturday night.
The storm could also reach hurricane strength Monday as it passes over or near the Dominican Republic, forecasters said.
Fiona became a tropical storm over the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday and entered the eastern Caribbean Sea on Friday.
Here’s the projected rainfall for each location, according to the Hurricane Center:
• Leeward Islands, including Guadeloupe and the North Windward Islands: 2-4 inches above what they have already received.
• British and US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico: 4-6 inches, isolation area may reach 10 inches.
• Puerto Rico: 12-16 inches, isolation area may reach 20 inches.
• Dominican Republic: 4-8 inches, isolation area may reach 12 inches. Especially on the far east coast.
• Haiti: 1-3 inches, with a maximum total length of 4 inches in isolation.
• Turks and Caicos Islands: 4-10 inches.
This is the first time a hurricane warning or warning has been issued for Puerto Rico in more than three years. The last time was in August 2019, when Hurricane Dorian passed the island as a Category 1 storm.
Several tropical storms have passed the island since then, but Dorian was the last to pass within 50 miles of hurricane strength, CNN meteorologists said.