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Tropical Storm Fiona expected to become a hurricane

Fiona.JPG
National Hurricane Center

Tropical Storm Fiona is now forecast to become a hurricane as it approaches the Bahamas next week.

The storm appears unlikely to threaten Florida, but it's early and the forecast extends only to the Bahamas, according to the National Hurricane Center. The current forecast track shows Fiona curving north away from the Florida coast.

Fiona's center was approaching Guadeloupe at 2 p.m. Friday, and tropical storm conditions were expected in portions of the Leeward Islands by evening. The storm is expected to cross the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Saturday into Sunday and approach the Dominican Republic on Sunday night and early Monday.

Forecasters said Fiona would continue on a westward path through early Sunday, followed by a turn toward the west-northwest Sunday. But exactly when that would happen is unclear. Fiona's forward movement is expected to slow, and the storm could strengthen over the next three days.

"The terrain of Hispaniola is likely to disrupt Fiona's circulation, but the global models suggest that Fiona shouldn't have much trouble reorganizing itself once over the far
southwestern Atlantic, and the NHC forecast now calls for the cyclone to become a hurricane by the end of the five-day forecast period," the Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. update.

Fiona's maximum sustained winds were near 50 mph Friday, with higher gusts. If winds reach 74 mph, Fiona would become the third hurricane of the Atlantic season.

Randy comes to Jacksonville from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, where, as metro editor, he led investigative coverage of the Parkland school shooting that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for public service. He has spent more than 40 years in reporting and editing positions in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Ohio and Florida. You can reach Randy at rroguski@wjct.org or on Twitter, @rroguski.