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Heavy Rain, Possible Tornadoes Expected from Fred in South Florida Saturday

Tropical Depression Fred remained disorganized Friday, and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) says forecast confidence continues to be "lower-than-normal". However, hazards such as heavy rain, potential flooding and possible tornadoes are still expected in south and southwest Florida, including the Keys and greater Miami.

The Tropical Storm Warning continues over the Keys and the Straits of Florida, including Florida Bay. A Tropical Storm Watch remains in effect farther north from Blackwater Sound to Bonita Beach.

The primary hazard that will affect most South Floridians from Fred is still likely to be heavy rain and potential flooding. However, tropical storm force wind gusts and high seas are also possible as early as Friday night in the aforementioned areas of Southwest Florida under the warning. Isolated tornadoes are also possible across all of south and southwest Florida Saturday in some of Fred's stronger outer rain bands.

Fred's fragmented center of circulation is now moving due west, skirting the island of Cuba and being hindered by wind shear (varying speeds and direction with height). The storm has also slowed in forward motion over the past 24 hours, and interactions with land have unraveled many of the rain bands or thunderstorms from the center. A somewhat more favorable environment for intensification awaits the season's sixth named storm in the southeastern Gulf of Mexico, but only if it can navigate the Straits of Florida and the Florida Keys Saturday cohesively. Forecasters at the NHC have also noted that recent model guidance suggests a center re-formation may occur, which could further complicate the forecast.

As of 5 pm EDT Friday, the official NHC forecast track of Tropical Depression Fred includes a shift to the left (or west) and much later turn to the north compared to recent advisories. The intensity forecast also now calls for more strengthening prior to landfall in the Florida Panhandle, which would be more likely to occur Monday given the slower near-term motion and more westward track.

None of the complications surrounding Fred's forecast are a surprise, according to the NHC's Senior Hurricane Specialist Dan Brown. In his 5 pm forecast discussion, he noted that "model shifts" are common with disorganized systems and reminded users not to focus on the exact forecast track. He further stated that hazards such as heavy rainfall, gusty winds and a chance of tornadoes are still likely to occur in Florida, despite the recent shift.

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Jeff Huffman is Chief Meteorologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. In addition to his full-time position at the university's radio and television stations, WUFT-FM/TV and WRUF-TV, the latter of which he co-founded, Huffman also provides weather coverage to public radio stations throughout Florida