The disturbance in the Caribbean Sea is still right on the cusp of strengthening into Tropical Storm Fred as it nears Puerto Rico, according to the National Hurricane Center. Although packing tropical-storm level winds, it still lacks the defined center that would earn it named storm status.
A NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft flew through the disturbance Tuesday morning to determine the system’s intensity but as of the hurricane center advisory at 8 p.m., the system remained below tropical storm strength. Still, it was almost a lock (90% chance) to hit at least tropical storm status. After that, its strength is forecast to fluctuate over the next several days, leaving the threat to South Florida still uncertain.
On the forecast track, the system could be a tropical storm by the time it passes near or over the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico late Tuesday, and will be near or over Hispaniola’s mountainous land on Wednesday, where it could see some weakening.
Forecasters haven’t categorized the system as a tropical storm yet because it remains messy, with no well-defined center for models to accurately track with, multiple mid-level centers and several active chunks of the system that are rotating slightly.
But forecasters noted that “conditions appear to be conducive for intensification during the next 24 hours or so” thanks to low wind shear and strong outflow over the system.
The hurricane center predicts the system will weaken into a tropical depression again by the time it nears the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Forecasters expect it to strengthen into a tropical storm again once it nears Cuba and Florida later this week. The hurricane center now predicts that the storm’s maximum sustained winds could top out near 60 mph at that point.
Most of Florida is in the cone. However, forecasters note that it’s still too soon to say if Florida will be affected because of the long-range forecast’s uncertainty.
South Florida could see “significant, widespread flooding” this weekend, said chief meteorologist Craig Setzer of Miami Herald news partner CBS4.
“A slow-moving tropical storm, passing just south & west of South Florida could bring periods of torrential rainfall depending on storm’s eventual path,” Setzer wrote on Twitter.
He said South Florida will have a better idea of what to expect on Thursday when forecasters can gauge how Hispaniola’s mountainous terrain affected the system. He recommends people start thinking about possible storm preparations for the weekend.
Early Tue models show little change to forecast track. For South Florida, it appears we will know more by Thu morning regarding how much Hispaniola land interaction has disrupted the system. In the mean time we should start thinking about possible trop storm preps for Saturday. pic.twitter.com/ld1yyStS7Q
— Craig Setzer (@CraigSetzer) August 10, 2021
Where is potential Tropical Storm Fred?
The disturbance was about 40 miles southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico, according to the hurricane center’s 8 p.m. Tuesday advisory. It was moving west-northwest at 17 mph with maximum sustained winds at 40 mph with higher gusts.
“Heavy rainfall could lead to flash, urban, and small stream flooding and potential mudslides across the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The greatest threat for flooding impacts will be across the eastern and southeastern portions of Puerto Rico,” forecasters wrote.
“There is a risk of wind and rainfall impacts elsewhere in portions of Hispaniola, the Bahamas, and Cuba later this week, although the forecast is more uncertain than usual since the system is still in its formative stage. Interests in these areas should monitor the system’s progress and updates to the forecast.”
As of the 8 p.m. update, the hurricane center is also tracking a tropical wave a few hundred miles southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands. It was headed west at about 10 to 15 mph and forecasters gave it a 30% chance of developing in the next five days.
Preparations in Puerto Rico
As Puerto Ricans prepare for their first potential storm of this hurricane season, fuel prices are frozen and 351 schools are available as shelters with a capacity of upholding 39,096 people, Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia said. Even though the island has a spike in COVID-19 infections, unvaccinated people will be admitted to the shelters. However, they will be placed separately from those that already got their two vaccine shots.
“In times of need, you have to attend them all,” Pierluisi Urrutia said. “All of our residents are going to be properly served, especially those who lost their homes or have to leave them in the middle of an emergency.”
All vaccine sites in Puerto Rico have an electric generator to safeguard the COVID-19 vaccines, the governor said during the press conference.
Over 120,000 pounds of food are ready to be cooked, if necessary, Pierluisi Urrutia also noted. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico’s Education Department is prepared to deliver 200,000 meals during 20 days, including breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to those that need it.
Nearly 8,500 Puerto Rico Coast Guard soldiers could be deployed to help this or any other agency during the emergency.
▪ The government of the Bahamas on Tuesday issued a tropical storm watch for the Turks and Caicos Islands, and for the southeastern Bahamas, including the Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, the Inaguas, Mayaguana, and the Ragged Islands.
▪ A tropical storm warning remains in effect for Puerto Rico, including Culebra and Vieques, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic on the south coast from Punta Palenque eastward and on the north coast from Cabo Frances eastward.
▪ Tropical storm watches remain in effect for Martinique and Guadeloupe, the north coast of the Dominican Republic from Cabo Frances Viejo to the Dominican Republic/Haiti border; the northern border of Haiti with the Dominican Republic to Gonaives, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Southeastern Bahamas.