WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Tropical Storm Fiona continues to churn toward the Caribbean and threatens to unleash downpours on the Leeward Islands as early as Friday night.
However, most long-range models have the system still turning toward the north and staying east of Florida.
According to the 5 a.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, Fiona is packing maximum sustained winds of 60 mph and is moving over Northern Leeward Islands where Tropical Storm Warnings remain in place.
Little change in strength is forecast during the next few days.
Over the weekend, Fiona will be nearing Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico where Tropical Storm Watches have been issued.
"The models are in pretty good agreement until they get to Puerto Rico, and then they're just all over the place," WPTV First Alert Meteorologist James Wieland said. "If the storm is stronger, it's going to pull to the north a little bit quicker. If it's weaker, it going to stay southward."
A tropical storm warning is in effect for:
- Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, and Anguilla
- Saba and St. Eustatius
- St. Maarten
- Guadeloupe, St. Barthelemy, and St. Martin
A tropical storm watch is in effect for:
- Puerto Rico, including Vieques and Culebra
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- British Virgin Islands
The storm is expected to move through the Leeward Islands on Friday night and early Saturday, then be near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico late Saturday into Sunday.
The NHC said Fiona will likely start to turn toward the west-northwest on Sunday.
"As we head into Monday and Tuesday, it starts to emerge off the coast of Hispaniola," WPTV First Alert meteorologist Kate Wentzel said. "Most of the models have it curving north and away from the U.S. coastline."
WPTV First Alert chief meteorologist Steve Weagle said there's still some uncertainty with the forecast models as we get into Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week.
"The distance between the European model and the GFS, two of the best computer models in the world, that's 750 miles," Weagle said. "So it's a wide spread. We're still gonna have to watch this thing through the weekend and early next week."
Fiona is expected to bring heavy rainfall to the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, producing isolated flash and urban flooding, along with mudslides in areas of higher terrain.
The British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico could see 4 to 6 inches with isolated maximum totals of 10 inches across eastern Puerto Rico. Eastern Hispaniola could experience 4 to 8 inches with isolated maximum totals of 12 inches.
"Lots of uncertainty remains, but Floridians should monitor this storm the next few days," Weagle said.
Although this is the relative peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, there have only been six named storms and two hurricanes so far this year.