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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Tropical Storm Fred swirled just south of Puerto Rico early Wednesday heading for the Dominican Republic and Haiti, with maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

A Tropical Storm Warning continues for the Dominican Republic. A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for Cuba and for southern Bahamas.

Forecasters warn 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.

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

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.

Fred was centered was centered 115 miles (190 kilometers) east-southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic early Wednesday and moving west-northwest at 16 mph (26 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The storm is expected to cross the Dominican Republic today and head for a close call with Cuba Thursday and Friday.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico for Fred, which is the sixth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.

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

Pierluisi said government agencies would close by noon Tuesday and officials noted that some gas stations had closed after running out of fuel. The heaviest rain was expected to fall overnight, 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.”

People in Florida were urged to monitor updates, but forecasters said it remained uncertain where the storm would move later in the week.

The Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas were under a tropical storm watch, including the Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, the Inaguas, Mayaguana, and the Ragged Islands.

The storm was expected to produce rainfall of 2 to 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) over the Leeward Islands, Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, with up to 6 inches (15 centimeters) in some areas, and could lead to flooding and mudslides.

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