MIAMI, Fla. (AP) — Forecasters say tropical depression Fred is slowly strengthening and could regain tropical storm status Friday.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center says the system is moving along the northern coast of Cuba on a forecast track toward Florida.
Maximum sustained winds are around 35 mph with higher gusts.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Florida Keys and Florida Bay, where tropical storm conditions are expected on Saturday. A tropical storm watch is in effect for parts of Cuba and the southwest coast of Florida.
“Tropical storm conditions are possible late Saturday and early Sunday across portions of the west coast of Florida in the tropical storm watch area. The risk of tropical storm conditions will spread northward along the Florida west coast and to the Florida Panhandle Sunday and Monday,” wrote the NHC in a Friday morning advisory.
From Friday to Monday, the NHC says heavy rainfall could lead to areal, urban, small stream, and exacerbated river flooding across southern and central Florida into the Big Bend area, where the Panhandle meets the Peninsula.
From Sunday onward, officials say heavy rain and flood impacts could extend into other portions of the Southeast and into the southern and central Appalachians and Piedmont.
Fred became a tropical storm on Tuesday but weakened to a depression as it spun over Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it knocked out power to some 400,000 customers and caused flooding.