Tropical Storm Fred regained its strength and was upgraded from a depression Sunday morning, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported, as the storm travels over the Gulf of Mexico and makes its way toward Florida and Alabama, bringing heavy rainfall and potential tornadoes to the region.
Tropical storm warnings are now in effect for parts of the Florida panhandle coast and watches are in effect for the area of the coast closer to the Alabama/Florida border, with the NHC forecasting Fred will continue to gain strength as it nears land before weakening once it does.
The storm currently has maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour, and the NHC forecasts the Florida Keys and Southern Florida could receive three to five inches of rain with isolated totals of up to eight inches through Monday.
Parts of the west coast of Florida and coastal Florida panhandle could also face tornadoes Sunday into early Monday.
On its current trajectory, Fred is due to make landfall along the Florida panhandle coast Monday afternoon or Monday night, and the NHC forecasts the Florida Big Bend and panhandle could experience four to eight inches of rain through Tuesday.
Fred will travel into Alabama and parts of Georgia and Tennessee, and the NHC predicts those areas, along with the western Carolinas, could see three to six inches of rain through Tuesday with isolated totals of up to nine inches.
Flooding from the heavy rainfall will be a risk in portions of Florida, southern Alabama, Georgia, and the western Carolinas, the NHC projects, and there could be one to three feet of storm surge in portions of the Florida and Louisiana coasts.
Fred is the sixth storm of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. The season is projected to be a busy one, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) now predicting there will be 15 to 20 named storms and seven to 10 hurricanes this season. Three to five of those storms are expected to be a category three storm or above. Fred regained strength Sunday after previously forming south of Puerto Rico and then later weakening over Hispaniola, bringing widespread power outages to the Dominican Republic as it made landfall there.
What To Watch For
As Fred prepares to make landfall, the Atlantic is also facing another tropical storm threat from Tropical Storm Grace, which has now provoked tropical storm warnings in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. The storm also threatens to affect portions of Haiti as the island recovers from a devastating earthquake. Grace’s potential impact on the U.S. mainland is still unclear, though its current path would see the storm tracking west of Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico by late this week.