Tropical Storm Fred makes landfall in Florida; Haiti is preparing for Grace
(AP) – Tropical Depression Grace flooded earthquake-damaged Haiti on Monday, threatening to dump up to 38 centimeters of rain on a landscape where people huddle in fields and search for survivors. Tropical Storm Fred weakened after hitting the Gulf Coast of Florida, and Tropical Storm Henri formed around Bermuda.
The US National Hurricane Center said Fred made landfall Monday afternoon near Cape San Blas in the Florida Panhandle with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph (95 km / h), but those winds had slowed to 40 mph (65 km / h) a few hours later. The storm was moving north-northeast at 12 mph (19 km / h). Fred is expected to spread heavy rain over parts of the southeastern United States as it continues to move inland this week.
Emergency management officials in Gulf County, where Fred made landfall, are receiving reports of downed trees and warning people to stay home and be careful if they have to travel.
“We don’t need the sneaky ones to hurt themselves or interfere with the cleanup process,” the agency said on social media.
West of the Panama City area, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford posted on social media Monday night that they were going through the worst of the storm, but still struggling with roads flooded and other damage.
Grace, meanwhile, was centered about 100 miles (165 kilometers) west-southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with winds over 35 mph (55 km / h). The storm was moving west-northwest at 14 mph (22 km / h), hitting the disaster area with what forecasters said could total 10 inches (25 centimeters) of regular precipitation, and again more in isolated areas. The hurricane center warned flash floods and mudslides were possible, especially along the southern coast of Hispaniola.
The coming storm couldn’t come at a worse time for Haitians struggling to cope with the effects of Saturday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake, which was responsible for around 1,300 deaths.
Grace is expected to revert to a tropical storm as it passes between Cuba and Jamaica on Tuesday and could be close to hurricane strength as it approaches Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on Wednesday evening. A tropical storm watch was in effect for the entire southern coast of Haiti, most of the southern coast of Cuba and the Cayman Islands.
Fred’s main threats are precipitation and storm surges, the hurricane center said. Forecasters expected Fred to experience 10-20 centimeters (4-8 inches) from Alabama across Big Bend and Panhandle in Florida, and even a foot (30 centimeters) of rain in isolated locations, while the surge could push seawater between 3 and 5 feet. (1 to 1.5 meters) on the coast between the Florida Indian Pass and the Steinhatchee River.
Forecasters have warned that Fred could also dump heavy rain across and into the mid-Atlantic states, with flash floods when some rivers overflow and even landslides in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Along Panama City Beach in the Florida Panhandle, lifeguards have hoisted double red flags, warning beach goers not to travel to the Gulf of Mexico. The area braced for rain and wind from the storm, and although no evacuations were ordered, schools and government offices were closed on Monday.
Shawna Wood, who is still rebuilding the Driftwood Inn waterfront in Mexico Beach after it was destroyed by Hurricane Michael, said the area was receiving a lot of rain but conditions were not great.
On the Alabama coast, the city of Orange Beach has offered sand and bags to residents concerned about the flooding. Half a dozen school systems closed on Monday, and a large church opened as a shelter. Salt water flowed onto the roads and caused flooding in low areas of Dauphin Island, a coastal barrier south of Mobile, Alabama, at noon Monday, Mayor Jeff Collier said.
Meanwhile, the eighth tropical depression of the season strengthened to Tropical Storm Henri on Monday near Bermuda, about 230 kilometers southeast of the island. A tropical storm watch was in effect for the island as top system winds reached 45 mph (75 km / h).
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