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Tropical Storm Fred Hits Florida Panhandle

Tropical Storm Fred Hits Florida Panhandle

At a Glance

  • Thousands were without power in the Florida Panhandle where Fred made landfall.

  • Flooding made several roads impassable.

  • Several school districts cancel Tuesday classes.

  • A state of emergency was declared for 23 of Florida’s 67 counties.

As Tropical Storm Fred came ashore along the Florida Panhandle with strong winds and heavy rain, power outages were mounting in several counties and travel was deemed unsafe.

Flooding closed several roads in Panama City, Lynn Haven and Southport on Monday evening.

The Bryant Patton Memorial Bridge, which connects St. George Island to the mainland, was closed Monday afternoon due to high winds and will reopen again when winds fall to a safe level, Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith said in a Facebook post.

“It’s not going to be closed for days – don’t freak out,” he said.

A road is flooded as Tropical Storm Fred approaches, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, in Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola Beach, Florida.

(Twitter/Gulf Islands National Seashore)

More than 40,000 Florida homes and businesses were without power Monday evening, according to PowerOutage.us. This included 3,500 customers in Franklin County – roughly one-third of all customers in the coastal county.

Fred made landfall at 2:15 p.m. CDT near Cape San Blas, Florida, with sustained winds of 65 mph. It was the fourth named storm to make a United States landfall this season, following Claudette, Danny and Elsa.

In the Tallahassee area, schools and colleges in Leon County were closed Monday due to the storm. School closures extended westward into the Florida Panhandle and even into southeastern Alabama as the entire region prepared for strong winds and flooding that would likely be triggered by Fred.

In Florida, Bay District Schools, Gulf County Schools and Washington County Schools will remain closed on Tuesday, the districts announced.

Sandbags were made available for residents up and down Florida’s coastline as final preparations were made for coastal flooding.

“There’s no such thing as ‘just a tropical storm’ to me,” Panama City Beach Mayor Mark Sheldon told The Weather Channel Monday morning.

One concern facing residents in areas like Panama City, Florida, is that the center of the storm is expected to pass near areas hit hardest by Hurricane Michael in 2018. Though the impacts from Fred are expected to be far less than Michael brought to the area, some homeowners and business owners are still reeling from the Category 5 hurricane that struck three years ago.

“We still have places out there with blue tarps on roofs,” Kevin Guthrie, director of Florida Emergency Management, told The Weather Channel.

Days before the storm’s arrival, a state of emergency was declared in 23 Florida counties ahead of Tropical Depression Fred.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued the state of emergency Friday evening for the following counties, most of them in North Florida: Bay, Calhoun, Citrus, Dixie, Escambia, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lafayette, Leon, Levy, Liberty, Manatee, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Taylor, Wakulla, Walton and Washington counties.

“We will not be issuing any mandatory evacuation orders or anything along those lines but we are asking anybody who lives in a mobile home, travel trailer or is at a campsite or lives on a live aboard vessel that they seek shelter with friends or family in a safe structure during the duration of the storm,” Kristen Livengood, public information officer for Monroe County in the Florida Keys, told weather.com Friday afternoon.

Double-red flags were flying Monday morning at Panama City Beach as lifeguards warned people to stay out of the water No evacuations were ordered, but schools and government offices were closed Monday.

“We’ve certainly been in a lot worse than this, but that’s no reason to be complacent,” Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford told the Associated Press. “The less people out on the road, the better. We do expect some heavy rain from this storm.”

Manatee County and the city of Bradenton, Florida, made sandbags available to residents ahead of Fred on Friday, Aug. 13, 2021.
System Likely to Become ‘Fred’

System Likely to Become ‘Fred’

At a Glance

  • A disturbance in the eastern Caribbean is likely to become a tropical storm on Tuesday.

  • It will bring heavy rain and gusty winds to the Caribbean, regardless of development.

  • It’s uncertain what, if any, impacts this system might bring to Florida beginning this weekend.

A disturbance in the eastern Caribbean Sea is likely to soon become Tropical Storm Fred as it brings heavy rain and gusty winds to parts of the Caribbean Islands over the next few days. Beyond the Caribbean, it’s uncertain what, if any, impacts this system might bring to Florida during the weekend ahead.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) has designated a low-pressure system spreading showers and thunderstorms into the eastern Caribbean Sea as “Potential Tropical Cyclone Six”.

This “potential tropical cyclone” procedure allows the NHC to issue watches and warnings ahead of time for a system that hasn’t become well organized enough to be deemed a tropical depression or storm, but is forecast to become one.

Current Radar, Satellite

(The icon shows the current location of this tropical system.)

Tropical storm watches and warnings have been issued from parts of the Lesser Antilles to the southeast Bahamas and Turks and Caicos. This includes a tropical storm warning for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, where tropical storm conditions (winds of at least 39 mph) are expected to begin later Tuesday.

Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands could also see 2 to 4 inches of rainfall from this system, which has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a flash flood watch for those areas until Wednesday evening.

Uncertain Forecast From the Caribbean to Florida

The official forecast from the NHC below shows that this system is likely to develop into Tropical Storm Fred on Tuesday as it moves generally toward the west-northwest.

Relatively low wind shear and warm water favor some short-term intensification, but dry air lurking nearby should prevent it from strengthening quickly.

At least some weakening of the system to a tropical depression is forecast once it moves over the mountainous terrain of Hispaniola on Wednesday. There is even the possibility that the system could dissipate for a time.

Current Status, Forecast Path

(The red-shaded area denotes the potential path of the center of the system. It’s important to note that impacts (particularly heavy rain, high surf, coastal flooding, winds) with any tropical system usually spread beyond its forecast path.)

By late week, future Fred or its remnants could be located near Cuba and the southeast Bahamas, where some reorganization of the system might begin. However, that will depend on how much wind shear this system encounters as it moves north and whether it tracks over water instead of Cuba.

The official NHC forecast shows some intensification of the system once it reaches the waters south of Florida by this weekend. But this forecast is highly subject to change given all of the wind shear, dry air and land interaction obstacles we’ve described above.

Regardless, it appears at least a surge of moisture will arrive in Florida this weekend, wringing out more frequent, concentrated areas of heavier rain than your more typical afternoon thunderstorms provide.

It’s too early to determine what, if any, other impacts there might be in Florida this weekend.

For now, interests from the Caribbean to the Bahamas and Florida should monitor its progress over the coming days. Now is a good time to refresh or develop your hurricane season plans.

Tropical Storm Elsa Forecast

Tropical Storm Elsa Forecast

At a Glance

  • Hurricane Elsa is speeding toward the Caribbean.

  • Elsa is expected to track through the Lesser Antilles Friday.

  • Its future regarding potential U.S. impact remains very uncertain next week.

Elsa has become the first hurricane on the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season as it approaches the Lesser Antilles. Hurricane Elsa will barrel into the Caribbean Friday, where warnings have been issued for the Windward Islands. Residents of the Caribbean and Florida should track the progress of Elsa closely through the holiday weekend.

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) said Elsa was centered about 40 mph miles west of Barbados as of Friday morning. A sustained wind of 74 mph and gust of 86 mph was measured on Barbados early Friday.

Current Alerts

A hurricane warning has been issued for Barbados, St. Vincent, the Grenadines and St. Lucia. Hurricane conditions are occurring on Barbados and are expected in the warning area in the next few hours.

Tropical storm warnings have been issued for parts of the Windward Islands, where tropical storm force conditions (winds of at least 39 mph) are expected on Friday.

A tropical storm warning has also been issued for the southern coast of the Dominican Republic and portions of Haiti where tropical storm conditions are expected Saturday.

A hurricane watch has also been posted for the southern portion of Haiti. A hurricane watch means hurricane conditions are possible and are typically issued 48 hours before tropical storm force winds are expected to begin.

Tropical storm watches have been issued for Jamaica, meaning tropical storm conditions are possible here this weekend.

Forecast Details

Elsa is tracking quickly westward at 28 mph. The quick forward speed should limit rainfall totals.

A storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 1 to 3 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds in the hurricane warning area in the Windward Islands and along the southern coast of Hispaniola.

The NHC says rainfall totals of 3 to 6 inches with isolated totals up to 10 inches are possible in the Windward and southern Leeward Islands Friday. This could lead to isolated flash flooding and mudslides. That said, the system’s fast forward speed will limit the heavy rain threat that might otherwise be greater.

Elsa will then move across the central and western Caribbean over the weekend. Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Hispaniola, Jamaica and Cuba might see heavy rainfall and strong winds from this system during that time. Puerto Rico may receive 1 to 3 inches of rainfall with localized amounts of 5 inches Friday into Saturday.

As this system moves through or past Hispaniola, it could bring heavy rainfall and storm surge to the island. Up to a foot of rain could fall in southern Haiti, with much of the southern portions of the country picking up 4 to 8 inches.

Forecast Uncertainty

Florida and the eastern Gulf of Mexico are included in the long-range forecast path from the NHC, however, it’s not certain what, if any, impacts it might bring to these areas early next week.

That’s because there are some important forecast factors yet to come into focus once this system tracks into the Caribbean that will influence its future.

One of those is how much land interaction with Hispaniola, Jamaica, and/or Cuba there will be to possibly weaken this system over the holiday weekend. Too much land interaction could disrupt Elsa enough and prevent it from staying intact past the Caribbean.

Elsa’s rather fast westward movement could also prevent it from strengthening too quickly in the near-term future as tracks into the Caribbean.

Another large uncertainty is when and how sharp the system is expected to reach the edge of the Bermuda High that is shoving Elsa westward. When Elsa reaches that edge, it will make a northwestward turn at some point later this weekend and early next week. A faster forward speed in the near-term will mean that this turn will also turn earlier.

The range of outcomes spans from a sooner, sharper northwest then north then northeast turn, recurving well off the Southeast coast to a much more gentle, subtle, late northwest turn into the Gulf of Mexico.

If Elsa tracks toward Florida, later Monday or Tuesday appears to be the earliest this system could impact parts of South Florida. Right now, Elsa is expected to increase the amount of thunderstorm activity in Florida during this time.

Check back to weather.com for updates over the next few days as the forecast uncertainty is narrowed down.

Earliest Forming Fifth Named Storm

Elsa is the earliest forming fifth named Atlantic storm on record in the satellite era (since 1966). The old record was held by Edouard, which developed a year ago on the evening of July 5.

The name Elsa is new to the list of rotating names being used this season. This year’s list was last used in 2015, but Erika was the “E” storm that year.

Erika was retired after it caused deadly and destructive flooding in the Caribbean Island of Dominica. Elsa replaced it.

Deadly tornadoes hit Alabama, leaving path of destruction

Deadly tornadoes hit Alabama, leaving path of destruction

More than 30 million Americans across the South faced the threat of severe weather after multiple deadly tornadoes hit the region Thursday. They sent sparks and debris flying across northeast Alabama.

A large tornado hit metropolitan Atlanta’s Coweta County around midnight Friday, prompting a tornado emergency for the city of Newnan and surrounding areas. No deaths were reported. 

At least five people were killed by storms Thursday in Calhoun County, Alabama, northeast of Birmingham. There were also reports of people trapped in flattened homes.

 

Much of Alabama was under a state of emergency as a large tornado left a trail of destruction in an area 50 miles long from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham earlier Thursday. Tornado and flash flood alerts have been posted across Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia. 

Powerful winds uprooted trees and sent them crashing onto rooftops. Some of the worst damage happened at the Eagle Point subdivision in Shelby County, Alabama. Torn-off roofs revealed the insides of bedrooms and drone footage showed homeowners sifting through debris. 

“It was scary,” said homeowner Carol Willis. “The noise was unbelievable.” 

Willis’s garage was damaged but her home was mostly spared. She described the frightening moments the tornado barreled through her community. 

“I was standing in this bedroom window, I looked out and it started getting dark. I said, well I better get out of this room. I had a metal garbage can. I said, well let me run to my utility room. I put the garbage can over my head, went in there, I stayed no more than two minutes. I came out and I saw all of this. I couldn’t believe it, it went so fast,” she said. 

The city of Pelham was also hit hard. Just 20 miles south of Birmingham, at least 14,000 people in the area are without power. 

Potential Severe Thunderstorm Outbreak Looms For South Thursday, Including Strong Tornadoes

Potential Severe Thunderstorm Outbreak Looms For South Thursday, Including Strong Tornadoes

At a Glance

  • An outbreak of severe thunderstorms will likely hit the South on Thursday.

  • Several tornadoes are possible in addition to damaging winds and large hail.

  • Flooding rainfall is also expected in parts of the region.

An outbreak of severe thunderstorms will likely hit the South on Thursday, including the possibility of long-track strong tornadoes, damaging winds, large hail and flash flooding. Some of the severe weather could extend as far north as the Ohio Valley.

The setup for this episode of severe weather is classic for early spring.

Namely, a low-pressure system is forecast to intensify as it quickly tracks from out of the South toward the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes Thursday into early Friday. This will help draw warm, humid air northward from the Gulf of Mexico into the South, allowing the atmosphere to become unstable enough to support a widespread threat of severe storms.

Here’s a closer look at the forecast for what areas could be hit hardest.

Severe Weather, Flooding Forecast

Wednesday-Wednesday Night

Pockets of heavy rain will continue the possibility of flash flooding in southern Louisiana, southern Mississippi and coastal Alabama on Wednesday.

Current Radar, Watches and Warnings

(Watches and Warnings are issued by the National Weather Service.)

Scattered severe storms could develop by evening and overnight from northern and central parts of Texas and southern Oklahoma into portions of Arkansas and northwest Louisiana.

Some parts of Texas could see two rounds of strong to severe thunderstorms, first in the evening, then in the pre-dawn hours early Thursday morning.

Large hail and damaging wind gusts are the primary threats from any storms that turn severe, though an isolated tornado or two cannot be ruled out.

Wednesday-Wednesday Night’s Severe Thunderstorm Forecast

(Shaded on the map above is the likelihood of severe thunderstorms, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center. Note that not all categories apply for the severe weather risk on a particular day.)

Thursday-Thursday Night

Thursday into Thursday night is when an outbreak of severe storms is likely to occur in the South, including some of the same areas ravaged by an outbreak of 49 tornadoes last week.

Supercell thunderstorms could pose a threat of long-track strong tornadoes as well as large hail and damaging winds, especially from northern and central Mississippi into central Alabama and a portion of western and middle Tennessee. That’s where NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center says there is a “moderate”, or a level 4 out of 5, risk of severe storms. Jackson and Tupelo, Mississippi, Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama, and Memphis, Tennessee, are some of the cities in this threat area.

At least some severe storms are also possible in a broader area shaded red in the map below from eastern Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana to possibly as far north and east as the Ohio Valley, eastern Tennessee and northwest Georgia. Damaging winds, hail and some tornadoes are possible threats.

Localized flash flooding could also be a concern in many of the same areas at risk for severe weather.

Thursday-Thursday Night’s Severe Thunderstorm Forecast

(Shaded on the map above is the likelihood of severe thunderstorms, according to NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center. Note that not all categories apply for the severe weather risk on a particular day.)

The threat of severe weather will trend downward as this system moves eastward on Friday. However, a few strong to severe storms cannot be ruled out from southeast Virginia and the Carolinas to southern and central Georgia and southeast Alabama.

Rainfall Forecast

Some areas in the South could see 1 to 3 inches of rain through Thursday night, particularly from the central Gulf Coast into parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Localized flash flooding is possible from the central Gulf Coast to the Tennessee and Ohio valleys into Thursday night.

Heavy rain Wednesday triggered street flooding in New Orleans. Flooding was nearing homes Wednesday afternoon in Houma, Louisiana, about 45 miles southwest of New Orleans.

The National Weather Service has issued flash flood watches through Thursday for this area, including New Orleans, Biloxi, Mississippi, and Mobile, Alabama.

Devastating Flooding in Australia Forces 18,000 Families from Their Homes (PHOTOS)

Devastating Flooding in Australia Forces 18,000 Families from Their Homes (PHOTOS)

Flooding has forced at least 18,000 families to evacuate their homes in New South Wales, Australia, as heavy rains caused some of the worst flooding in the state in decades.

Photos show neighborhoods inundated with flooding to the height of street signs and locals rowing to safety as the water climbs.

The flooding has caused damage to homes and businesses and washed out bridges and roads. ABC News Australia reported that a couple’s rental home in Mondrook was washed away on their wedding day on Saturday. The couple was not home at the time, and are uninjured.

Emergency services received more than 8,000 calls for help since the flooding began. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Insurance Council of Australia declared an insurance catastrophe after more than 5,000 claims were lodged over the weekend due to the flooding.

Dozens of communities have been officially deemed disaster areas. Click through the slideshow above to see photos of the devastation.