Tropical Storm Fred made landfall at 2 p.m. EDT Wednesday in the southeastern Dominican Republic as a low-end tropical storm with 45 mph winds. Passage over the mountainous island of Hispaniola shredded Fred, and the storm was weak and disorganized on Thursday morning after emerging back over water. In its 11 a.m. EDT Thursday advisory, the National Hurricane Center noted that Fred barely qualified as a tropical depression, with no heavy thunderstorms near its center.

Overnight, Fred had brought gusty winds and heavy rains to portions of the Dominican Republic, knocking out power to over 300,000 customers. The capital, Santo Domingo, recorded a 24-hour rainfall amount of 6.76” (171.6 mm).

Figure 1. Visible satellite image of Tropical Depression Fred, centered just north of the eastern tip of Cuba, at 11:40 a.m. EDT August 12, 2021. (Image credit: NOAA/RAMMB/Colorado State University)

Forecast for Fred

Fred is on a west-northwest track that will take it parallel to and just north of Cuba. Cuba’s high terrain will block inflow of low-level moisture from the south into the storm on Thursday and Friday, interfering with development. Also hindering development will be an upper-level trough of low pressure to the northwest of Fred, which is expected to bring 15-20 knots of wind shear. Favoring intensification will be a moist atmosphere and very warm sea surface temperatures, 29-30 degrees Celsius (84-86°F).

Once Fred enters the Florida Straits on Saturday, the ridge of high pressure steering the storm will carry it more toward the northwest, resulting in a track nearly parallel to the Florida peninsula. Fred’s track may bring it close enough to southwestern Florida that land interaction will limit intensification.

Wind shear may lessen some on Saturday, which would favor intensification. However, no reliable intensification models predict that Fred will become a hurricane before its final landfall in the Florida Panhandle, expected on Monday. Regardless of Fred’s final landfall intensity, flooding from heavy rains of 3-5 inches is likely to be the main threat from the storm in Florida. If Fred tracks up the west coast of Florida over water, a storm surge of 1-3 feet is likely along much of the Florida Gulf Coast.

Figure 2. Visible satellite image of 95L in the eastern tropical Atlantic on Thursday morning, August 12, 2021. The system had two distinct areas of heavy thunderstorms, with the northern one more dominant. (Image credit: NASA Worldview)

Tropical disturbance 95L headed toward the Leeward Islands

A disturbance in the eastern tropical Atlantic dubbed 95L has been following a path very similar to Fred’s. Located on Thursday morning about 1,400 miles east of the Lesser Antilles Islands, 95L was moving westward at 20 mph. Showers and thunderstorms were gradually growing more organized, though moderate wind shear of 10-20 knots and some dry air along its northern edge was slowing this process. Satellite imagery late Thursday morning showed that 95L had two distinct areas of heavy thunderstorms (see Figure 2 and Tweet below); surface wind measurements from the ASCAT instrument showed that the northern area appeared to be dominating.

A broad ridge of high pressure over the western Atlantic is expected to keep 95L moving steadily west to west-northwest until it reaches the vicinity of the Leeward Islands around Saturday night. Over the next five days, wind shear is expected to be light to moderate, 5-15 knots, the atmosphere will gradually moisten, and sea surface temperatures will warm from 27 degrees Celsius (81°F) to 29 degrees Celsius (86°F). These conditions are favorable for development, and 95L has modest model support to develop into a tropical depression by early next week. In its 8 a.m. EDT Thursday tropical weather outlook, NHC gave 95L 2-day and 5-day odds of development of 30% and 60%, respectively. The next name on the Atlantic list is Grace.

Bob Henson contributed to this post.

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Jeff Masters, Ph.D., worked as a hurricane scientist with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990. After a near-fatal flight into category 5 Hurricane Hugo, he left the Hurricane Hunters to pursue a...