TS Fred Heads Inland Across FL Panhandle
Heavy rain and storms as far north as Washington D.C.
Tropical storm Fred made landfall near Cape San Blas, around 2:15 Central time Monday. Winds were about 65 mph, with higher gusts.
As of mid-afternoon, Fred’s center was about 25 miles west of Apalachicola, moving 9 mph to the north-northeast. While not directly in the storm’s path, the western Panhandle is expected to get some of the storm’s effects.
To the east in Walton County, Emergency Management Director Jeff Goldberg reminds us that that the cone graphic containing the storm’s potential movement doesn’t show the big picture.
“Because how far the winds are from the center of circulation,” said Goldberg. “We’re still looking at a potential for flash floods – we are in a flash flood watch. We are still looking at up to 8 inches of rain on average; 4 to 8 inches with some spots that could get as high as 12 inches.”
It’s also vital to keep tabs on what happens after Fred’s visit.
“That’s going to potentially saturate the ground; we may go into a tornado watch sometime later [Monday] if the National Weather Service feels that there may be some tornadic activity,” Goldberg said.
Up to 3 feet of storm surge is expected along the Walton County coastline, says Goldberg. A high surf warning is in effect — with double red flags flying at the beaches — telling visitors to stay out of the Gulf.
“The water’s closed, the beach is open,” he said. “If you’re caught in the water, you could get yourself a $500 fine. So we want to make sure that message still stays out there. But even more importantly, [if] you get in the water with a high risk of rip currents, a $500 fine could be the least of your worries.”
A bit to the west, Pat Maddox, Okaloosa County’s emergency chief, says for the most part they’re spectators for Fred’s trip across the eastern Panhandle.
“Our chances of super-heavy rainfall are diminishing; we were in the 6 to 8 inches range earlier, but we’re now down into the 3 to 4 inches – really the 2 to 4 inches range for some parts of the county,” Maddox said. “The western parts of the county may not see much at all. And our chances of sustained tropical storm-force winds have greatly diminished.”
Storm surge is not expected to be a very large problem, since high tide will have passed before the peak, says Maddox, and will be gone altogether before the next high tide.
“We’re expecting conditions to, if we are to go downhill , go downhill throughout the afternoon and evening,” said Maddox. “But after midnight, the situation will begin to diminish, and by commute time [Tuesday] we should not have dangerous winds or heavy downpours to contend with.”
“The main thing for us is that we didn’t activate the [Emergency Operations Center] today, and things are looking pretty good for us,” said Brad Baker, Santa Rosa County Emergency Manager. “I think we ought to get some of those very outer bands, just some light rain. We’re probably going to get a half-inch to an inch, where, if it had come over this way we probably would have got 8-10 in.”
Baker adds that they stand ready to help any county to the east that’s hit hard by Fred.
“We could go help staff their EOC; we could help them manage their point of distribution or a staging area – just whatever their need is,” he said. “It’s really a regional thing we’ve blended. With [Hurricane] Michael we were able to send assets from Santa Rosa and Escambia County over to help our neighbors in Bay and also in Washington Counties.”
Once Fred is done with the Panhandle, his remnants will move through Alabama and Georgia, dumping up to 10 inches of rain. A flash flood threat is in place this week, from roughly Atlanta to Richmond, Virginia and Washington D.C.