Currently in the Atlantic — September 16, 2022

The weather, currently.

Official forecast track and intensity of Tropical Storm Fiona from the National Hurricane Center. 

The focus today will be on newly formed Tropical Storm Fiona. As of the 5 PM Atlantic Standard Time advisory from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), Fiona is located about 465 miles east of the Leeward Islands. Maximum sustained winds in this storm are 50 mph, and the center is moving westward at 14 mph.

Spaghetti models projecting the track of Tropical Storm Fiona

On this track, the center of Fiona will near or over Antigua and Barbuda Friday evening, and then move westward south of the US and British Virgin Islands overnight Friday into Saturday. Fiona is then expected to curve northward on late Saturday into Sunday in the vicinity of Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic.

Rainfall forecast from Tropical Storm Fiona from the the National Weather Service office in San Juan, Puerto Rico 

This positions Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands on the right side of the storm, which is typically where the heaviest rainfall and strongest winds occur. The latest forecast from the National Weather Service in San Juan predicts anywhere from 8 to 10 inches of rain over southeastern Puerto Rico to 2 to 3 inches on the northwestern part of the island. A widespread 4 to 6 inches is likely across the Virgin Islands. This will lead to widespread flooding concerns, as well as the potential for mudslides in the higher elevations.  

Annotated upper level pattern driving the motion of Tropical Storm Fiona. Model data from TropicalTidbits.com

It is really fascinating digging into what is driving the track of Fiona. If you can bear with my poor annotations, I have drawn blue and red arrows on an upper level map provided by TropicalTidbits.  The blue denotes winds, and the red denotes the track of Fiona. In the center of the Atlantic is the large Bermuda High, which often sits in that area this time of year.

In the Northern Hemisphere, winds rotate clockwise around areas of high pressure and counter-clockwise around low pressure. So knowing this, we know that the strength of the Bermuda high plays a large role in determining how far west a tropical system will travel before curving northward.

The western edge of the Bermuda high can be weakened and/or shoved away by approaching weather systems over the eastern United States. Getting these weather features correct is where we often see differences in weather models, and why we see the larger cones of uncertainty over time in each forecast. And with this current setup, the models are really struggling, as you can see below.

If you live or have loved ones in Puerto Rico, Miami, or along the east coast of the US – be sure to subscribe to our daily newsletters in those regions. Currently meteorologists will keep you updated as we continue tracking Fiona and potential impacts.  

-Chief Meteorologist Anthony Torres filling in for Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz

What you need to know, currently.

We've had an unusually quiet hurricane season this year, but the National Hurricane Center (NHC) issued a warning today for Tropical Storm Fiona. "Heavy rains from Fiona will reach the northern Leeward Islands Friday afternoon, spreading to the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico Saturday into Sunday morning," said the NHC. "This rainfall may produce flash and urban flooding, along with isolated mudslides in areas of higher terrain. Considerable flood impacts are possible across eastern portions of Puerto Rico."

Fiona is expected to pass by just as Puerto Rico marks the five year anniversary of Hurricane Maria. Maria made landfall on September 20th, 2017 as a devastating Category 4 storm and the archipelago still has not fully recovered. Maria caused the longest blackout in United States history and was responsible for at least 3,000 deaths — many of them resulting from the 11-month-long blackout.  

Rolling blackouts remain an issue even when the weather is good. Puerto Rico's embattled electrical grid relies heavily on imported oil and gas and substantial upgrades and repairs have been put off for years. “Until they rebuild the grid, these blackouts aren’t going to stop,” Federico de Jesús, a political consultant and adviser for the advocacy group Power 4 Puerto Rico told The American Prospect last month. “They could get marginally better, but it’s a systemic failure.”

What you can do, currently.

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