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Tropical Storm Fiona continues its trek toward eastern edge of Caribbean

Sept. 15, 2022 Updated Thu., Sept. 15, 2022 at 12:35 p.m.

 (National Hurricane Center/National Hurricane Center/TNS)
(National Hurricane Center/National Hurricane Center/TNS)
By Robin Webb, Angie DiMichele and Victoria Ballard South Florida Sun Sentinel

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Tropical Storm Fiona continued to move west Thursday in the direction of the eastern Caribbean and, potentially, South Florida.

Fiona formed late Wednesday, becoming the sixth named storm of the 2022 hurricane season. Fiona developed from Tropical Depression Seven, which formed in the Atlantic on Wednesday morning.

As of 8 a.m. Thursday, Fiona was 545 miles east of the Leeward Islands, near the southeastern Caribbean Sea, moving west at 13 mph.

Its maximum sustained winds were 50 mph with tropical-storm force winds extending up to 140 miles from Fiona’s center, the National Hurricane Center’s advisory said.

Fiona will reach the Leeward Islands by Friday night, then near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico this weekend. Forecasters expect the system to weaken on Monday as it reaches Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the hurricane center said.

Tropical storm watches were in place for several Caribbean islands, including St. Maarten, Antigua, Barbuda, St. Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, and Anguilla.

Fiona is expected to bring sea swells and 3 to 6 inches of rain, with isolated higher amounts.

It’s now past the statistical peak of the Atlantic hurricane season with five previous named storms before Fiona. AccuWeather notes that “not a single hurricane has come within striking distance of the East Coast or Gulf Coast” this season.

The next storm to form would be Gaston.

“The Atlantic hurricane season’s slow pace so far in 2022 has … led to a startling disparity in the number of mainland U.S. landfalls through mid-September compared to the last two years,” The Weather Channel reported.

Forecasters say dry air, Saharan dust and wind shear have been among the reasons there haven’t been more storms this year.

“The lack of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic has been particularly noticeable considering recent hyperactive hurricane seasons with many impacts to the U.S. and Caribbean. Even though the season overall may end up near average or even slightly below average, it only takes one storm to threaten lives and create a major disaster,” according to AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jonathan Porter.

Hurricane Earl, which became the season’s second hurricane on Sept. 6, dissipated early Sunday. Earl was the season’s first Category 2 hurricane.

The last time a major hurricane hadn’t formed by Sept. 11 was in 2014, when Edouard became a Category 3 on Sept. 16. That season followed a 2013 where there were no major storms recorded.

Earl and Hurricane Danielle, were the first named storms to form in the Atlantic since early July, when Tropical Storm Colin formed offshore of the Carolinas.

This year marked only the third time since 1961 when no named storms formed in August.

The 2020 hurricane season set a record with 30 named systems, while 2021′s season was the third most active with 21 named systems. An average year calls for 14 named storms.

Hurricane season ends Nov. 30.

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