Tropical Storm Fred was intensifying Monday morning, with maximum sustained winds reaching almost 60 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) reported, as the storm barrels across the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to make landfall in the western Florida Panhandle Monday afternoon or early evening, bringing heavy rainfall and a potentially dangerous storm surges.
The Florida Big Bend and Panhandle are expected to be pounded with four to eight inches of rain through Tuesday, while isolated maximum storm totals could reach as high as 12 inches.
It is also possible the storm could generate “a tornado or two,” according to the NHC, late Monday morning or early afternoon from the Florida Panhandle northward into southwest Georgia and southeast Alabama.
Data from National Weather Service Doppler radar indicate that Fred was moving north at 10 mph as of 8:30 am EST.
Tropical-storm-force winds are extending outward up to 90 miles from the center of the storm.
Fred is expected to weaken after it makes landfall, but Alabama and parts of Georgia and Tennessee could see three to six inches of rain through Tuesday.
Fred, which formed south of Puerto Rico, weakened as it made its way over Hispaniola last week. However, the storm regained its strength and was upgraded from a depression Sunday morning. According to the NHC, a storm surge warning means there is a “danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline, during the next 36 hours in the indicated locations.” The center advises individuals located within these areas to take “all necessary actions to protect life and property from rising water” and other potentially dangerous conditions. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) has declared a state of emergency for the Panhandle region, and school districts in several coastal counties canceled classes Monday. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said Saturday her administration was monitoring the situation and “will be ready to act from the state level if needed.”
Fred is one of three Atlantic storms being monitored by the NHC. Grace has been demoted from a tropical storm to depression, as sustained winds have fallen to 35 miles per hour. As of Monday morning, Grace was about 160 miles southeast of Port Au Prince, Haiti, and moving west at 15 mph. Parts of Haiti, which was ravaged by an earthquake over the weekend, and the Dominican Republic are under storm surge warnings. In addition, Tropical Depression 8, which formed roughly 140 miles east of Bermuda, is forecast to become Tropical Storm Henri on Monday.