ORLANDO, Fla. – Fred was downgraded from a tropical storm to a tropical depression after making landfall Wednesday afternoon in the Dominican Republic as it makes its way on a projected path toward Florida.
[VIDEO ABOVE: Projected path, cone, computer models, satellite, more]
As of late Wednesday, former Tropical Storm Fred was centered 55 miles southeast of Cap Haitien Haiti and moving west-northwest at 15 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph, down from 40 mph earlier in the day.
The latest models take the storm a bit farther west, with less of Florida in the cone than earlier projections showed, but still with much of the state remaining in the cone. The system was expected to stay over Hispaniola overnight into Thursday.
The National Hurricane Center said the system continues to bring heavy rains over Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
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.
“The center of Fred is expected to be over Hispaniola overnight, move near the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas on Thursday, and move near or north of the northern coast of central Cuba Thursday night and Friday.,” NHC forecasters wrote in their 8 p.m. advisory Wednesday.
People in Florida were also urged to monitor updates.
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.
[VIDEO BELOW: Live loop of Central Florida radar]
Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi closed government agencies on Tuesday at noon and officials noted that some gas stations had shut down after running out of fuel. The heaviest rain was expected to fall during the night, forecasters said.
Eight shelters were opened across the island, though officials said only about seven people had checked in by midevening.
“Do not wait until the last minute to mobilize,” said Nino Correa, Puerto Rico’s emergency management commissioner. “We don’t want to have fatalities.”
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, as well as the Cuban provinces of Ciego de Avila, Camaguey, Las Tunas, Holguin, Granma, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo.
The storm was expected to produce rainfall of 3 to 5 inches the Dominican Republic with up to 8 inches in some areas.
The next named storms will be called Grace and Henri.
Hurricane season runs through November.