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Tropical Storm Fred Hits Florida Panhandle

Published in 17 August, 2021

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.

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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.”

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

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