Florida Within Cone Of What Could Become Tropical Storm Fred
Tropical storm warnings are in effect for Puerto Rico as Potential Tropical Cyclone 6 moves toward a possible pat h toward the Tampa Bay area by this weekend.
Florida is within the National Hurricane Center's "cone of uncertainty" as a system that could soon become Tropical Storm Fred enters the Caribbean.
Puerto Rico is under a tropical storm warning as Potential Tropical Cyclone 6 moves on a path toward Cuba, and possibly toward Florida’s west coast by this weekend.
Tropical storm warnings are also in effect for the Virgin Island and portions of Caribbean, according to the hurricane center.
As of Tuesday at 5 p.m., the system — which would become the sixth named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season — was located about 105 miles southeast of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph with higher gusts. It is moving to the west-northwest at 17 mph.
Jeff Huffman, a meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network, said it is likely is to become a tropical storm by Tuesday night and the overall forecast for it hasn't changed.
"We've seen persistent thunderstorms and tropical storm force winds around the system, and it is moving into an environment favorable for intensification over the next 24 hours," Huffman said. "However, thereafter interactions with Puerto Rico and Hispaniola, along with an increase in wind shear makes the long-range forecast on this one highly uncertain."
The forecast track takes the potential tropical cyclone near Cuba or South Florida on Friday night into Saturday, when an increase in squally weather is possible depending on the track and strength of the system.
Huffman said there is an increasing chance of tropical storm conditions across portions of South Florida from the developing system late Friday or Saturday, and that confidence is also growing on a path that will — at the very least — produce heavy rain and potential flooding across a large portion of the peninsula this weekend.
Forecasters say the storm could take an eerily similar path as Tropical Storm Elsa last month, heading northwest then curving to the north and placing it just off the coast of Tampa Bay by this weekend.
Light upper-level winds and warm water temperatures are likely to favoring strengthening Tuesday into Wednesday morning. However, it is likely to pass near the mountainous island of Hispaniola later Wednesday morning and afternoon, and should be close to Cuba Thursday and Thursday night. These islands will disrupt the circulation and are likely to cause some weakening or prevent additional strengthening, at a minimum, as it passes near these islands.
An upper-level trough of low pressure over the Bahamas is expected to impart southwesterly wind shear over the system Thursday and Friday. Most computer models forecast this upper low to move into the eastern Gulf of Mexico and weaken somewhat this weekend and early next week.
Still, it is likely to cause south or southwesterly wind shear over top of the developing tropical cyclone, which should prevent the disturbance from becoming too intense.
If it reaches the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, which presently appears likely, then the system could strengthen early next week even with wind shear working against it. There is a low chance of tropical storm force winds over South Florida, but if they do occur, they would first arrive late Friday night or Saturday morning.
An increase in rain chances appears probable this weekend, regardless of the storm's strength. It is too soon to predict whether other areas in Florida may experience wind or rain from this developing system.
The National Hurricane Center is not presently outlining any other areas in the tropics for development. However, some computer models are forecasting an uptick in activity over the next couple of weeks coinciding with the climatological peak of hurricane season and a favorable pattern unfolding over the Atlantic Ocean.
Information from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network was used in this report.