State emergency officials are standing by to support Panhandle residents in the path of Tropical Storm Fred, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Monday.
After regaining its tropical storm status over the Gulf of Mexico Sunday, Fred is expected to impact portions of the Florida Panhandle and the Big Bend region Monday evening.
“We think it’s actually going to be a pretty strong tropical storm by the time it makes landfall later today,” DeSantis told reporters in Orlando.
As of 2 p.m., Fred was 35 miles southwest of Apalachicola and traveling north-northeast at 9 mph.
The National Hurricane Center reported maximum sustained winds of 65 mph that extend outward 115 miles from the storm’s center.
DeSantis warned heavy rains and flash flooding are likely in some regions.
“They’re very well prepared,” DeSantis said of the Department of Emergency Management. “They’ve been working on this.”
Fred is the sixth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season.
DeSantis noted the storm will impact a region still reeling from the aftermath of hurricanes past.
“That’s an area of the state, as many of you know, that got hit by Hurricane Michael a few years ago,” DeSantis said. “It did extensive damage. While this is not a Michael-type storm in terms of wind, that part of Florida and many parts of Florida have been getting a lot of rains.”
The Florida Panhandle — from Navarre to the Wakulla/Jefferson County line — remains under a tropical storm warning. Florida’s Big Bend area, meanwhile, is under a storm surge warning.
Early Monday, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried urged impact residents to remain mindful of COVID-19.
She also urged local governments to supply masks and hand sanitizer at storm shelters.
“The last thing we want to do is for people to contract or spreading COVID-19 while they’re trying to keep safe during these storms,” Fried said.