Tropical Storm Fred nearing the Dominican Republic, eyes Florida

This satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows a Tropical Storm Fred in the Caribbean as it passes south of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic at 8am EST, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021

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Posted August 11, 2021 | By Danica Coto, Associated Press

This satellite image provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows Tropical Storm Fred in the Caribbean as it approaches the Dominican Republic at 11 am EST, Wednesday. [NOAA/NESDIS/STAR GOES]

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Tropical Storm Fred swirled toward the Dominican Republic and Haiti on Wednesday, with forecasters warning that heavy rains could cause dangerous flooding and mudslides.

After a quiet month of no-named storms in the region, Fred became the sixth of the Atlantic hurricane season late Tuesday as it passed by the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on a forecast track that would carry it toward Florida by the weekend.

Tropical storm warnings were discontinued in the U.S. territories after pelting the islands with rain.

More than 13,000 customers were without power in Puerto Rico, where Luma, the company in charge of the transmission and distribution system, warned those who depend on electricity for life-saving medical devices to activate emergency plans.

“Puerto Rico’s system … continues to be very fragile,” the company said, referring to the power grid Hurricane Maria destroyed in 2017.

Fred was centered 50 miles (95 kilometers) southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, on Wednesday morning and moving west-northwest at 16 mph (26 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph).

The Dominican Republic, Haiti and central and eastern Cuba could get hit Wednesday, and people in Florida were urged to monitor updates. Forecasters said the center of Fred was expected to move near the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas on Thursday, and move north of the northern coast of central Cuba on Friday.

More than a month had passed since the last Atlantic storm, Hurricane Elsa, but this time of summer usually marks the start of the peak of hurricane season.

The hurricane center issued warnings for Dominican Republic on the south coast from Punta Palenque eastward and on the north coast from the Dominican Republic/Haiti border eastward. A watch was in effect for Haiti from the northern border with the Dominican Republic to Gonaives, Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas.

The storm was expected to produce rainfall of 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) over Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic with up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) in some areas.

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