Tropical Depression Grace drenched earthquake-damaged Haiti on Monday, threatening to dump up to 15 inches (38 centimeters) of rain on a landscape where people are huddling in fields and searching for survivors. Tropical Storm Fred grew stronger before hitting Florida’s Gulf Coast, and Tropical Storm Henri formed around Bermuda.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Fred made landfall Monday afternoon near Cape San Blas in Florida’s Panhandle. The storm’s maximum sustained winds were 60 mph (95 km/h) as it moved north-northeast at 9 mph (15 km/h). Fred is expected to bring heavy rains to a swath of southeastern U.S. as in continues to move inland this week.
Emergency management officials in Gulf County, where Fred made its landfall, are receiving reports of downed trees and cautioning people to stay home and to be careful if they must travel.
“We do not need looky-loos getting hurt or getting in the way of the cleanup process,” the agency posted on social media.
In southeast Alabama, area residents were experiencing steady rain and some wind gusts as nightfall neared, and emergency officials asked people to stay at home if possible. Most area schools were closed on Monday and many businesses and governmental offices closed early.
Grace, meanwhile, was centered 50 miles (80 kilometers) south of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with top winds of 35 mph (55 km/h). The storm was moving west-northwest at 13 mph (20 km/h), bearing down on the disaster area with what forecasters said could total 10 inches (25 centimeters) of steady rainfall, and still more in isolated areas. The hurricane center warned that flash floods and mudslides were possible, especially along Hispaniola’s southern coasts.
The oncoming storm couldn’t come at a worse time for Haitians struggling to deal with the effects of Saturday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake, blamed for an estimated 1,300 deaths.
Grace was expected to become a tropical storm again as it passes between Cuba and Jamaica on Tuesday and could be near hurricane strength when it approaches Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula Wednesday night. A tropical storm watch was in effect for the entire southern coast of Haiti, most of the southern coast of Cuba and the Cayman Islands.
Fred’s main threats are rainfall and storm surge, the hurricane center said. Forecasters expected Fred to sustain 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) from Alabama across Florida’s Big Bend and Panhandle, and even a foot (30 centimeters) of rain in isolated spots, while the surge could push seawater of between 3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 meters) onto the coast between Florida’s Indian Pass and the Steinhatchee River.
Forecasters warned that Fred also could dump heavy rain across and into the mid-Atlantic states, with flash floods as some rivers overflow and even landslides in the Blue Ridge mountains.
Meanwhile, the season’s eighth tropical depression strengthened into Tropical Storm Henry on Monday near Bermuda, about 145 miles (230 kilometers) offshore.