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Tropical Storm Fred nears Florida Panhandle as Grace drenches earthquake-hit Haiti

An intensifying Tropical Storm Fred is taking aim at the Florida Panhandle, with the threat of a damaging coastal storm surge, high winds, and heavy rains that could extend all the way north into the Mid-Atlantic region.

The big picture: Meanwhile, poorly organized Tropical Depression Grace continues to dump rain across Haiti and the Dominican Republic, complicating earthquake relief efforts in Haiti. It appears destined to enter the Gulf of Mexico.

  • The two storms are following diverging paths when it comes to their intensity, as Tropical Storm Fred has emerged reinvigorated after weakening to a tropical wave in the southern Gulf of Mexico late last week.
  • The area likely to see the highest surge and strongest winds will be near and to the east of where the storm's center crosses the Florida Panhandle, where a plethora of weather warnings are in effect, including for a 3 to 5-foot storm surge between Indian Pass, Fla. and the Steinhatchee River, along with high winds that could gust to hurricane force (74 mph).
  • Rainfall totals from this storm could reach a foot in some locations, according to the National Hurricane Center, though most areas will see four to eight inches.
  • Within 60 hours of Tropical Storm Fred making landfall Monday afternoon, the storm is likely to morph into a late summer rainstorm as it sweeps north-northeast toward the Mid-Atlantic states.
  • Meanwhile Tropical Depression Grace is bringing heavy rainfall capable of causing flooding and mudslides to earthquake-ravaged Haiti, but is forecast to move away from the country this evening.
  • After that, the storm is forecast to skirt the south coast of Cuba, before eventually winding up the the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, where it could intensify into a hurricane before threatening southern Texas or parts of Mexico.

Context: Tropical Storm Fred is not a blockbuster storm that requires large-scale evacuations, but with an unusually active season predicted, such an event is a distinct possibility.

What's next: The U.S. government is taking no chances on storm preparedness, and is in fact viewing COVID vaccinations as a key part of its strategy to keep people safe from hurricanes.

  • FEMA administrator Deanne Criswell is slated to make her second trip to the Hurricane Center in Miami on Tuesday, where she will emphasize the importance of getting vaccinated against COVID-19 as a form of storm preparation.
  • According to a FEMA official, Criswell will also meet with Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava for a discussion on hurricane preparedness there.
  • “As we enter the peak months of hurricane season, we must all practice personal preparedness and stay vigilant," Criswell told Axios in a statement. .
  • "Simple steps such as creating an emergency plan, knowing your evacuation routes, obtaining flood insurance, and getting a COVID-19 vaccine will keep you and your family safe and ready before disaster strikes," Criswell added.

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