Orlando Sentinel: By Richard Tribou – Storm surge and a deluge from Tropical Storm Fiona plagued the Caribbean island of Guadeloupe with at least two people reportedly washed away by rising waters as the system threatened Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands on Saturday.
Fiona strengthened Friday evening after it passed into the northeastern Caribbean Sea, according the National Hurricane Center, and could gain hurricane strength by Monday.
As of 8am Saturday, the NHC said Fiona was maintaining 60 mph winds with higher gusts. The system grew in strength after passing by the northern Leeward Islands. Its center was located about 145 miles southeast of St Croix in the US Virgin Islands moving west at 13 mph.
Its tropical-storm-force winds extend out 125 miles.
Torrential rain left behind heavy road damage on Guadeloupe with video on Twitter showing fast-moving floods flowing down streets up to washed out roads and streets flooded up to 2 feet washing away cars.
Projected rainfall had been more than 8 inches in some parts of the island.
Government officials with the French overseas department said two people were missing swept away by rising waters overnight.
“On the forecast track, the center of Fiona is expected to move near or just south of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico today through Sunday, and approach the southern or eastern coast of the Dominican Republic Sunday night and Monday,” said NHC hurricane specialist Brad Reinhart.
Already under a tropical storm warning, hurricane watches were issued for Puerto Rico as well as for parts of the Dominican Republic.
Warnings remain in place for the US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, Saba, St Eustatius, St Maarten, Guadeloupe, St Barthelemy, St Martin and parts of the Dominican Republic.
The system’s updated path forecasts it to travel away from Florida, while gaining hurricane strength ahead of landfall on the Dominican Republic on the island of Hispaniola. It’s expected to keep hurricane strength as a Category 1 system with 75 mph winds and gusts up to 90 mph as it passes over the island, approaching the Turks and Caicos and threatening the southern Bahamas early next week.
The threat of heavy rains and possible flooding faces many of the islands with as much as 16 inches in Puerto Rico and 12 inches in the Dominican Republic possible.
Saturday’s new five-day forecast has it curving even more to the north and into the Atlantic Ocean, and gaining strength as a Category 2 system by Wednesday with 90 mph sustained winds.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic, a tropical wave was detected Thursday midway between the west coast of Africa and the Lesser Antilles islands. The weather system is producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms, and is predicted to slowly develop late this weekend and early next week when it turns northward over the central subtropical Atlantic. The NHC gives it a 20 percent of forming in the five days.
Also, the NHC has dropped chances of formation to 0 percent for a frontal low over the western Atlantic Ocean a few hundred miles west-northwest of Bermuda, which emerged Friday morning.
Despite the low chances, their emergence coincides with Colorado State University’s release of its tropical prediction for the next two weeks, saying the tropics could get much busier with a 50% chance of above-average activity taking place. CSU also gave a 40 percent chance of normal activity taking place and a 10 percent chance of below-average activity.
Fiona could become the season’s third hurricane following hurricanes Daniella and Earl earlier this month.
What had been forecast to be an above average tropical season was mostly quiet in July and August before picking up steam on Sept. 1.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1-November 30.
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