Fred Strengthens A Bit, Storm Surge Warnings Extended Eastward
Update as of 5:15 PM Sunday:
The Storm Surge Warning has been extended to Yankeetown, Florida. It is now in effect from Indian Pass (near the Franklin/Gulf county line) to Yankeetown (at the Levy/Citrus county line). 2 to 4 feet of water above normally dry ground is likely somewhere within the warning area.
The Tropical Storm Warnings continue from Navarre eastward to the Wakulla/Jefferson county line. A Watch is in effect from west of Navarre to the Florida/Alabama line. Top sustained winds are near 45 mph and more strengthening is forecast prior to landfall Monday evening in the Florida Panhandle, but Fred is still most likely to come ashore as a strong tropical storm.
Outer fringe bands have been scraping the coast of Pinellas county Sunday afternoon. Wind gusts to near 60 mph were recorded in St. Petersburg before 4 o'clock Sunday afternoon. Additional bands are possible right along the Nature Coast Sunday evening, but more bands are likely to come onshore of the Forgotten Coast after midnight Sunday night. The more significant weather is still on track to arrive during the day Monday.
Update as of 11:30 AM Sunday:
A Storm Surge Warning has been issued from Indian Pass (near the Franklin/Gulf county line) to the Steinhatchee River (at the Taylor/Dixie county line) in Florida. 2 to 4 feet of water above normally dry ground is likely somewhere within the warning area.
A Tropical Storm Warning has also been issued from Navarre to the Wakulla/Jefferson county line. The warning includes Destin, Fort Walton, Panama City, Apalachicola, and St. Marks. Tropical Storm winds (greater than 39 mph) are likely along the Forgotten Coast just prior to sunrise Monday. Those winds are likely to spread into areas like Panama City, Destin, and Fort Walton around midday and continue into the afternoon and evening hours. Squalls may also produce tropical storm conditions inland around Defuniak, Marianna, Chipley, and Blountstown Monday afternoon and evening. A few brief gusts to tropical storm force are also a possibility around Tallahassee any time from midday into the afternoon and evening hours.
Some strengthening is forecast before Fred makes landfall Monday evening in the Florida Panhandle. There has been a shift back to the east in the forecast track. Heavy rain, gusty winds, and isolated tornadoes are likely to begin after midnight along the Forgotten Coast. These rains are likely to move inland over the Tallahassee and Big Bend areas Monday morning, as well as the Panama City area. Heavy rain and the potential of tropical storm conditions could make it as far west as Fort Walton and Destin on Monday morning, but are somewhat more probable Monday afternoon and evening. Tropical Storm Watches continue for Pensacola, but the storm track has shifted east, making the impacts of heavy rain and strong winds a little more questionable. If those conditions happen in Pensacola, they would happen Monday afternoon and evening.
Occasional bands of showers and storms are possible over the remainder of North and Central Florida Sunday into Monday and potentially lasting into Tuesday. Most of these showers will be initiated from daytime heating and the sea breeze, but will tend to move around the circulation of Fred. Pockets of flash flooding are possible. A brief, isolated tornado or two cannot entirely be ruled out.
Update as of 8:55 AM Sunday:
Fred restrengthened to a tropical storm shortly Sunday morning in the Gulf of Mexico. Warnings are expected to be issued soon for a portion of the Panhandle.
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect from the Florida/Alabama line to the Ochlockonee River, including Pensacola, Destin, Fort Walton, Panama City, and nearby communities. Watches are also in effect inland west of Marianna. If tropical storm winds are realized in the Panhandle, they would arrive Monday afternoon near the coast and Monday evening inland from the coast.
The biggest concern continues to be heavy rain. Flash Flood Watches are in effect until Tuesday evening, where 4 to 8 inches of rain are forecast from Fred. Locally higher amounts are possible. This makes flash flooding the main impact from Fred. Minor coastal flooding, high surf, and rip currents will also pose risks to swimmers starting on Sunday and lasting until through at least early Tuesday morning.
Update as of 5:00 PM Saturday:
Satellite imagery is showing an increase in thunderstorms between the northwest tip of Cuba and the southeastern Gulf of Mexico. This may be the first sign of Fred trying to reorganize in the Gulf. It is still forecast to regain tropical depression status early Sunday and then tropical storm status Sunday afternoon or night.
The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Watches may be required later Saturday night or Sunday morning for a portion of the North-Central Gulf coast, and that Tropical Storm Warnings may be needed later Sunday. Conditions are expected to deteriorate on Monday before landfall occurs somewhere between the Mississippi coast and the western Florida Panhandle Monday night or early Tuesday.
Update as of 11:30 AM Saturday:
Strong wind shear has taken its toll on Fred and it is no longer a tropical depression based on the 11am advisory from the National Hurricane Center. The tropical wave is forecast to become a tropical storm over the Gulf of Mexico some time late Sunday before heading for the western Florida Panhandle or Alabama on Monday. Regardless of its status, heavy rain is likely to be the primary threat and a few, brief tornadoes are still possible this weekend over central and north Florida.
The National Hurricane Center says Tropical Storm Watches and/or Warnings may be needed for a portion of the northern Gulf coast later this weekend in anticipation of Fred re-strengthening.
Original Story from Friday Evening:
Tropical Depression Fred remained disorganized Friday, and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) says forecast confidence continues to be "lower-than-normal".
Residents of Florida near the Gulf Coast from Pensacola to Key West are still at risk of some coastal impacts from Fred such as high winds and surge. However, the more widespread hazard for all Floridians, including those that live inland and near the Atlantic Coast is periods of heavy rain, potential flooding and possible tornadoes. The flood risk is greatest from the Forgotten Coast to the Nature Coast, where 3 to 6 inches of rain may fall depending on how close Fred tracks. A second area of heavy rain and potential flooding will occur in South Florida Saturday as Fred's outer rain bands persist during its journey through the Straits of Florida.
Fred's fragmented center of circulation is now moving due west, skirting the island of Cuba and being hindered by wind shear (varying speeds and direction with height). The storm has also slowed in forward motion over the past 24 hours, and interactions with land have unraveled many of the rain bands or thunderstorms from the center. A somewhat more favorable environment for intensification awaits the season's sixth named storm in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, but only if it can navigate the Straits of Florida and the Florida Keys Saturday cohesively. Forecasters at the NHC have also noted that recent model guidance suggests a center re-formation may occur, which could further complicate the forecast.
As of 5 pm EDT Friday, the official NHC forecast track of Tropical Depression Fred includes a shift to the left (or west) and much later turn to the north compared to recent advisories. The intensity forecast also now calls for more strengthening prior to landfall in the Florida Panhandle, which would be more likely to occur Monday given the slower near-term motion and more westward track.
None of the complications surrounding Fred's forecast are a surprise, according to the NHC's Senior Hurricane Specialist Dan Brown. In his 5 pm forecast discussion, he noted that "model shifts" are common with disorganized systems and reminded users not to focus on the exact forecast track. He further stated that hazards such as heavy rainfall, gusty winds and a chance of tornadoes are still likely to occur in Florida, despite the recent shift.
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