Tropical Storm Fred Forms in Caribbean and is a Potential Threat to Florida This Weekend
The disturbance in the northeast Caribbean was upgraded to Tropical Storm Fred late Tuesday evening just south of Puerto Rico. The storm has the potential to affect a large portion of Florida this weekend with heavy rain and high winds, although the National Hurricane Center says the "magnitude, location and timing of those impacts are still uncertain".
As of 11 pm EDT Tuesday, Tropical Storm Fred was located 45 miles south-southwest of Ponce, Puerto Rico and had maximum winds of 40 mph. The storm was moving west at 17 mph and a minimum central pressure was estimated to be 1009 mb.
Tropical Storm Fred is forecast to pass just south of Puerto Rico and turn west-northwest into the Mona Passage Wednesday. It will then likely move across the Dominican Republic and along the north shore of Haiti Thursday, before paralleling the north shore of Cuba Friday. Thereafter, Fred is forecast to move through the Straits of Florida and into the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, before turning north and potentially affecting parts of Florida's Gulf Coast this weekend.
A marginally favorable atmospheric environment surrounds Fred over the next 24 hours, which could allow for some intensification. However, this may be limited by interactions with the mountainous island of Hispaniola which could disrupt the storm's low-level circulation. At this time, stronger winds aloft form the west may also aid in the weakening of the storm temporarily. From there, how close the track of Fred's circulation is in relation to Cuba will play a key role in determining the storm's ability to maintain intensity through the Straits of Florida Friday. Thereafter, a more favorable oceanic and atmospheric environment is projected near Tropical Storm Fred this weekend when it emerges in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico and makes the more northward turn. However, this intensification would be contingent on the center staying over water and not moving across the Florida Peninsula.
It should be noted that the average forecast track errors on a storm at days four and five are 175 and 200 miles, respectively. This is why the entire State of Florida is at risk for some impacts from Tropical Storm Fred at this time. All residents of Florida are encouraged to stay vigilant in the coming hours and days as more information on the potential impacts from Tropical Storm Fred become available. Forecasters have noted that hurricane conditions can not be ruled out if the storm were to stay over water longer before making landfall somewhere in Florida late this weekend or early next week.
Tropical Storm Fred is the sixth named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane Season, and is the sixth earliest in a calendar year to form. On average, the sixth tropical storm of the year forms on or around Sept. 8. The traditional peak of activity in the tropical Atlantic Basin is around Sept. 10.
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