Fred eyes Florida as tropical depression

Update (7:45 a.m. Aug. 12): The National Hurricane Center downgraded Fred to a tropical depression Wednesday evening. Forecasters expect it to strengthen again and make landfall in Florida as a tropical storm or Category 1 hurricane.

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Authorities are closing area waterways with potential rainfall coming from Tropical Storm Fred this weekend.

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On Wednesday, Levy County closed three boat ramps along the Suwannee River—Clay Landing, Camp Azalea and Fowler’s Bluff—and Alachua County shut down Poe Springs Park in High Springs. The areas will be closed until further notice due to the heavy rainfall the past few weeks that included Tropical Storm Elsa on June 7.

Tropical Storm Fred officially formed Wednesday morning with increased winds and rainfall spreading over Hispaniola this afternoon and will near the Turks and Caicos Islands and southeast Bahamas on Thursday. Forecasters expect it to approach the north coast of Cuba by Friday.

“It’s still too early to know what impacts we could possibly see in Levy County, if any,” said David Peaton, Levy County Emergency Management assistant director, in a Wednesday email update. “The amount of rain that we have received over the last several weeks has made things very saturated. Areas along the river, areas that are prone to flooding, should take extra precautions to protect their properties just in case this storm brings more rain to the area next week.”

Forecasters project Tropical Storm Fred will hit South Florida by Friday night and move northward by Sunday.

“There is a higher than normal confidence in the track of the storm,” Peaton wrote. “Most models are now showing Fred staying right in the middle of the ‘cone of uncertainty.’ The storm is relatively small, with 39+mph wind fields only about 65 miles across.”

Experts predict 2021 will be a busy hurricane season and recommend making preparations, including buying a generator.

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