Tropical Storm Fiona is heading for the Caribbean islands, prompting storm warnings and carrying the threat of flooding rains and mudslides this weekend.
Fiona’s top winds have so far reached 80 kph and could rise to more than 100 as it makes its way through the Caribbean, the US National Hurricane Centre said.
It is the Atlantic Hurricane Season’s sixth named storm, formed on Wednesday evening.
“Interests in the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico should monitor the progress of this system,” the centre said.
At 8am on Thursday, Fiona was moving at 20 kph with maximum sustained winds of about 85 kph, forecasters said.
Little change in strength is expected during the next few days.
The storm was located about 875 kilometres east of the Leeward Islands. Tropical storm watches were issued for Saba and St Eustatius, St Maarten, Antigua, Barbuda, St Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and Anguilla.
Fiona is expected to produce total rainfall of about eight to 15 centimetres, with isolated higher amounts across the northern Leeward Islands, the British and US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and eastern Hispaniola.
Ocean swells are expected to begin affecting the northern Leeward Islands early on Friday, causing life-threatening surf and rip currents.
Brad Reinhart, a hurricane specialist at the centre, wrote in a forecast that dry air and wind shear are tearing at Fiona’s structure, which could keep it from strengthening in the next few days.
He said it was difficult to predict how strong the storm would get because it could be weakened by the mountains on Puerto Rico and Hispaniola.