New Tropical Storm Fred approaching Dominican Republic

Tropical Storm Fred was nearing the Dominican Republic early Wednesday, with forecasters warning that its 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 as expected late Tuesday. Tropical storm warnings were in effect for portions of the Dominican Republic.

The previous named Atlantic storm was Hurricane Elsa, but this time of summer usually marks the start of the peak of hurricane season.

On the forecast track, Fred’s center was expected to be near or over Hispaniola later Wednesday, move near the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeastern Bahamas on Thursday, then north of the northern coast of central Cuba on Friday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. Hispaniola is the island share by the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

It passed in the vicinity of Puerto Rico early Wednesday.

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Tropical Storm Fred’s position as of 4 a.m. EDT Wednesday., at Puerto Rico and heading for Hispaniola, the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. U.S. National Hurricane Center

“The most important thing today is preparation,” said Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi. “I am not going to minimize the potential impact of this event. … We expect a lot of rain.”

Rains pelted the northern Caribbean and power outages were reported in Puerto Rico, where Luma, the company in charge of the U.S. territory’s 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 a power grid that was razed by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

Pierluisi said government agencies in Puerto Rico would close and officials noted that some gas stations had shut down after running out of fuel. The heaviest rain was expected to fall overnight, forecasters said.

Eight shelters were opened across the island.

“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.”