September 18, 2021

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Schools close throughout the Florida Panhandle ahead of Tropical Storm Fred – CNN

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CNN —  

With Tropical Storm Fred gaining strength on the way to the Florida Panhandle, many schools in the area are closed Monday to brace for its impact.

Still about 175 miles south of Panama City, Florida, as of early Monday morning, Tropical Storm Fred maintained maximum sustained winds of 50 mph while moving toward the state at 6 mph, with an expected landfall in the western Panhandle Monday afternoon or early evening, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Fred had been downgraded but regained its tropical storm status Sunday morning over the Gulf of Mexico, and is forecast to gradually increase in strength as it tracks through the warm waters of the gulf Monday.

The storm is expected to bring dangerous storm surge, river flooding and possible tornadoes when it reaches the US coast, and will then begin to quickly weaken after landfall, according to the NHC.

Fred is one of three Atlantic storms currently being monitored by the NHC. Tropical Depression Grace is headed toward Haiti and Tropical Depression Eight formed northeast of Bermuda Sunday night, according to the NHC.

Tropical Depression Eight is moving south at 8 mph with maximum sustained winds at 35 mph and is forecast to possibly reach tropical storm strength.

A Tropical Storm Warning for Fred is in effect for the coast of the Florida Panhandle from Navarre to the Wakulla-Jefferson County line.

Schools in Bay County, Okaloosa County, Walton County and Santa Rosa County announced all classes were canceled Monday, as were after school activities.

Classes are expected to resume Tuesday, according to posts on each school district’s website.

The storm is expected to bring isolated maximum rainfall totals of 12 inches to the Florida Big Bend and Panhandle through Tuesday, according to the NHC. And heavy rainfall can be expected through parts of southeast Alabama, portions of Georgia and the western Carolinas.

Storm surge is forecast to be highest from Indian Pass to the Steinhatchee River in Florida where a surge of 3 to 5 feet is possible. A storm surge of 1 to 3 feet is forecast Monday from the Alabama-Florida border to Indian Pass, including Pensacola Bay, Choctawhatchee Bay and Saint Andrew Bay.

Tropical Depression Grace takes aim at still recovering Haiti

Meanwhile, Tropical Depression Grace is tracking through the Caribbean toward Haiti, potentially affecting recovery efforts following a major 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck Saturday.

Grace weakened from a storm to a tropical depression Sunday, with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph.

A tropical storm watch is in effect for the entire coast of Haiti and the entire coast of the Dominican Republic in advance of Grace, which was located 90 miles south-southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, early Monday morning.

The current forecast from the National Hurricane Center has Grace traveling over Hispaniola Monday and near or over eastern Cuba Tuesday, with expected wind speeds at 35 mph.

The center of the storm may pass just north of where the earthquake struck Haiti, but there will still be impacts that can hamper aid and rescue efforts. Gusty winds and heavy rain are the main threats associated with this storm for Haiti.

Grace is forecast to bring 3 to 6 inches of rain to Puerto Rico with isolated totals of up to 8 inches possible, which could lead to flash flooding and mudslides.

For Haiti and the Dominican Republic, widespread rainfall of 4 to 8 inches is forecast, with isolated amounts of up to 15 inches that could also lead to flash flooding and mudslides on Monday and Tuesday.

The intensity and the track of Grace after passing Hispaniola remains uncertain at this time. The NHC currently has the storm tracking south of Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico by the end of the week.

CNN’s Haley Brink, Tyler Mauldin, Jackson Dill and Gene Norman contributed to this report.

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