Tropical Depression Fred is gaining strength and moving toward Florida.
Despite departing Hispaniola Thursday as a “poorly organized” weather system, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns tropical storm conditions may impact South Florida as early as Saturday.
“This risk will spread northward along portions of Florida’s west coast and to the Florida Panhandle through Monday,” NOAA said in a Thursday advisory.
Located roughly 230 miles east of Cuba, Fred was producing maximum sustained winds of 35 mph as of Thursday afternoon. The storm was traveling west-northwest at 14 mph.
NOAA warns Fred will deliver heavy rain fall and flooding across South Florida.
A tropical storm watch, the agency said, will likely be issued Thursday afternoon.
Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshall Jimmy Patronis is urging Floridians to prepare.
“Floridians know all too well the devastation hurricanes can have on their lives and we must take this threat seriously,” Patronis said. “The time is now to prepare and protect your home and business. Heed all watches and warnings from state and local officials and do not wait until a storm is making landfall.”
Fred approaches Florida as the sixth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.
Earlier this month, NOAA updated the 2021 Atlantic hurricane seasonal forecast to reflect more storms.
The agency now forecasts a 70% probability of 15 to 21 named storms. They expect seven to 10 hurricanes — three to 10 of which could develop into major hurricanes.
Patronis shared several preparation tips for Floridians before the storm.
Among them: prepare a home inventory and organize all financial information.
Not least, he encouraged Floridians to visit his financial preparedness website.
The site provides checklists and guides to various things including the flood insurance claims process.
“As we saw with Hurricane Michael, hurricanes can form and strengthen quickly, leaving little time to prepare and evacuate,” Patronis said.
Floridians can also contact the Insurance Consumer Helpline for assistance by dialing 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236).
Specialists are available Monday-Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.