Tropical storm watch imminent for Florida as Fred forecast to strengthen

Tropical Depression Fred continued on its path northwest towards Florida on Thursday after being downgraded by The National Hurricane Center Wednesday from a tropical storm.

As of the 2 p.m. update from the National Hurricane Center, Tropical Depression Fred had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph and was located approximately 180 miles east of Camaguey, Cuba. Tropical storm watches remained in effect for portions of the Bahamas, and areas of Cuba. The Florida Keys and portions of the South Florida peninsula could be under storm watch later Thursday. The storm previously passed through the high mountains of the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

The storm system was moving west-northwest at 14 mph. Although disorganized as a result of its interaction with land, the storm is expected to dump 3 to 5 inches of rain, with isolated maximums of 8 inches of rain in total across the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.

Slow strengthening of the system is expected as the storm skirts along the northern coast of Cuba through Friday, before making landfall in the Florida Keys at some point during the day Saturday. The storm is then forecast to decrease slightly in forward speed as it makes a turn to the northeast, nearly mirroring the track of last month’s Tropical Storm Elsa. As it runs parallel to the coast of west Florida in the warm Gulf waters, combined with low wind shear, Fred is expected to restrengthen into at least a midlevel tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph. On the forecast track, Fred is expected to make landfall early Monday along the Florida Panhandle as a tropical storm.

The entire Florida Peninsula, especially along its west coast, is preparing for heavy rainfall of 3 to 5 inches, with maximums of 8 inches locally. The risk of significant flash flooding, especially in low-lying areas like Tampa Bay, and rapid river rises remain of particular concern through Monday.

As the storm moves inland it will weaken, bringing heavy rain to the Appalachian Mountains next week.

Tropical Depression Fred isn’t the only disturbance forecasters are watching in the Atlantic.

Invest 95L, located in the central Atlantic, has been tagged by the National Hurricane Center with a 30 percent chance of development in 2 days, and 60 percent in 5 days. As it follows a similar track to Fred, environmental conditions will become favorable for development, which could result in another tropical depression by early next week.

The next name on the list is Grace.

Beyond that, several more waves could exit off Africa where they could develop into tropical cyclones in the next 10 days. As we head toward the climatological peak of hurricane season, the Atlantic is becoming active right on schedule.

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