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Fred hits Florida, Henri has turned into tropical storm and Grace drenches Haiti and the Dominican Republic

Aug. 16, 2021 Updated Mon., Aug. 16, 2021 at 9:06 p.m.

By Michelle Marchante and David J. Neal Miami Herald

MIAMI – The three storm systems moving about the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean and into Florida behaved as predicted into the Monday 8 p.m. Eastern time update from the National Hurricane Center.

Tropical Depression Grace might not have the strength of Tropical Storm Fred or Henri, but that’s of little solace to the parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic getting what the NHC called “torrential rains.” Fred hit Florida’s Panhandle region Monday afternoon while Tropical Storm Henri put Bermuda on watch.

Where they are now and where they’re going:

Tropical Storm Henri was about 145 miles southwest of Bermuda, where there’s a Tropical Storm Watch. Henri brings maximum sustained winds of 40 mph as it moves south-southwest at 7 mph. It’s a tight storm, with tropical storm winds extending only 35 miles from the center.

It’s moving toward the south and is expected to make a “slow clockwise turn” toward the southwest and then toward the west during the next couple of days though there is some disagreement on how sharp the turn will be, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Bermuda should expect to feel tropical storm conditions Tuesday, particularly to the south of the island.

A model that has been a “notable high outlier” in several cases this year suggests the storm will strengthen into a Category 2 hurricane in the next two to three days, though “given the expected shear, that solution does not appear likely at this point,” the hurricane center said.

The hurricane center’s official forecast keeps it as a strong tropical storm through early Friday. It could see maximum sustained winds up to 65 mph this week.

Tropical Storm Fred was about 15 miles south of Marianna. Over land, Fred moves a tad faster but has lost 10 mph wind speed, moving north-northeast at about 9 mph with 50 mph sustained winds. Tropical storm force winds extend 115 miles from the center. A 55 mph gust was recorded at the Marianna Airport.

The Tropical Storm Warning west of the Okaloosa/Walton County county line ended, but there’s still one for the Panhandle coast and Big Bend from that county line to the Steinhatchee River. There’s a Storm Surge Warning for the coast from Indian Pass to Yankeetown.

“On the forecast track, Fred will move from western Georgia on Tuesday across the southern Appalachian Mountains to West Virginia by Wednesday,” the NHC 5 p.m. update said. “Maximum sustained winds are near 60 mph with higher gusts. Rapid weakening is expected, and Fred should become a tropical depression by early Tuesday.”

Florida’s Panhandle and Big Bend region could see from four to eight inches of rain, with isolated areas possibly seeing up to 12 inches through Tuesday, according to the hurricane center. Swells caused by Fred could also cause life-threatening rip currents along the coast . A few tornadoes were predicted to be possible Monday over Florida’s west coast and Panhandle area.

The area from Indian Pass to Steinhatchee River was expected to see the biggest storm surge, 3 to 5 feet.

“The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. … The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the east of the landfall location, where the surge will be accompanied by large waves,” forecasters wrote.

As of the 8 p.m. EST advisory, Grace was about 60 miles southwest of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and about 325 miles east of Montego Bay, Jamaica Monday. It was moving west-northwest at 13 mph with maximum sustained winds at 35 mph.

A tropical storm warning was issued for the Cayman Islands and for parts of Cuba’s southern coast, including the provinces of Santiago de Cuba, Granma, Las Tunas and Camaguey. A tropical storm watch was issued for the provinces of Ciego de Avila, Sancti Spiritus, Cienfuegos, and Matanzas, as well as Isla de la Juventud.

A tropical storm watch remains in effect for Jamaica and the entire coast of Haiti, which is still reeling from Saturday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake that has killed about 1,300 people. The tropical storm watch for the Dominican Republic was discontinued.

Grace’s biggest threat to Hispaniola – the island the two nations share – is the possibility of flooding rain. Heavy rains have started to spread westward across southern Haiti, according to the hurricane center.

Forecasters say Haiti and the Dominican Republic should expect to see 5 to 10 inches of rain with some isolated areas possibly getting as much as 15 inches through Tuesday.

This heavy rainfall could lead to flash and urban flooding and even mudslides, according to the hurricane center.

The forecast track predicts Grace should move over or near the Tiburon Peninsula of Haiti through Monday night then pass between Jamaica, Cuba and the Cayman Islands on Tuesday and Wednesday. Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and the southern edge of Cuba should get two to four inches rain, although a few places can get up to 6 inches.

Its southern track will keep it away from Florida and bring it over the warm waters of the northwestern Caribbean, where it should strengthen into a tropical storm again by Tuesday.

There is plenty of uncertainty surrounding how strong Grace could get though gradual strengthening as it approaches the Yucatan coast of Mexico.

“Once the system reaches the Gulf of Mexico, the shear appears to decrease, and conditions there will likely be conducive for additional strengthening,” forecasters wrote. “In fact, many of the models, including the consensus aids, bring Grace to hurricane intensity, and the NHC intensity forecast has therefore been bumped upward, bringing Grace very near hurricane strength by the end of the forecast period.”

The hurricane center’s official forecast pegs it as a strong tropical storm that should have maximum sustained winds near 70 mph by Saturday.

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