Cecil Whig

Wet and unwelcome, Fred spawns twisters and flooding in US

- By BRYAN ANDERSON

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Tropical Storm Fred weakened to a depression and spawned several apparent tornadoes in Georgia and North Carolina on Tuesday as it dumped heavy rains into the Appalachia­n mountains along a path that could cause flash floods as far north as upstate New York.

One death was reported — a Las Vegas man whose car hydroplane­d near Panama City, Florida, Monday night and overturned into a waterfille­d ditch, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

Fewer than 30,000 customers were without power in Florida and Georgia after the storm crashed ashore late Monday afternoon near Cape San Blas in the Florida Panhandle. Emergency crews were repairing downed power lines and clearing toppled trees in Fred’s aftermath. Some schools and colleges in Florida, Alabama and Georgia cancelled Tuesday’s in-person classes due to the storm.

The National Hurricane Center said Fred had top sustained winds of 35 mph (56 kph) as it crossed southeast Alabama into western and north Georgia. Senior hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart said Tuesday that it could dump 5 to 7 inches (1318 centimeter­s) of rain into parts of Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas — and possibly up to 10 inches (25 centimeter­s) of rain in isolated spots, causing flash flooding in mountainou­s areas.

Clay Chaney, a meteorolog­ist with National Weather Service, said a local fire chief in North Carolina told the agency a tornado was on the ground in northern Iredell County around 12:47 p.m. The weather service was also looking into reports of a tornado hitting Alexander County.

Parts of western North Carolina, already soaked by rain not directly associated with Fred, braced for more rainfall through early Wednesday. Transylvan­ia County, south of Asheville, declared a state of emergency after 10 inches (25 centimeter­s) fell Monday, causing landslides, flooding roads and destroying at least one home.

Transylvan­ia County Chairman Jason Chappell, a lifelong resident, said it was the most intense flooding he’s seen in at least 20 years, and that he fears more damage to come. Floodwater­s swamped a local factory Monday with several inches of water and damaged its parking lot.

“It really caught everyone off guard,” Chappell said. “No one was forecastin­g that amount of rain.”

With Fred blowing in Tuesday, National Weather Service meteorolog­ist Ashley Pratt said Haywood, Transylvan­ia and Jackson counties are likely to get the most rain, including another 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeter­s) in Transylvan­ia.

One of the region’s major attraction­s, Grandfathe­r Mountain State Park, closed on Monday. The North Carolina state park’s website said “trails are flooded and the water at stream crossings (is) dangerousl­y high.”

At least three apparent tornadoes touched down in Georgia: One hit Americus, in the southweste­rn part of the state, one hit a rural area of Meriwether County, between Atlanta and Columbus, and one hit Jeffersonv­ille, near Macon, according to the National Weather Ser vice.

The storm hit Americus around 1:30 a.m., knocking over trees, with some falling on houses, and downing power lines, WRBL-TV reported.

An Academy Sports warehouse near Jeffersonv­ille was hit by another likely tornado before 6 a.m., with metal siding torn off the building, a semi truck trailer tipped over and Twiggs County Sheriff Darren Mitchum telling WMAZ-TV that eight boats were scattered around by the storm. Weather officials warned of a tornado in the Jeffersonv­ille area as well.

Heavy rains drenched parts of metro Atlanta just before dawn Tuesday, snarling commutes.

Meanwhile, reconnaiss­ance aircraft found Grace regained tropical cyclone strength early Tuesday. Grace lashed earthquake­damaged Haiti as a tropical depression on Monday, dumping up to 10 inches (25 centimeter­s) of rain that pelted people huddling under improvised shelters in the aftermath of Saturday’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake, now blamed for more than 1,400 deaths.

Grace’s sustained winds grew to 45 mph (75 kph) as it left Haiti on a westward path between southeaste­rn Cuba and Jamaica. Forecaster­s said it could be near hurricane strength as it approaches Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula late Wednesday or early Thursday.

Tropical Storm Henri, meanwhile, was about 135 miles (215 kilometers) southsouth­east of Bermuda. The small tropical cyclone had 50 mph (80 kph) winds and was expected to circle widely around the island, the hurricane center said.

 ?? BRYNN ANDERSON ?? A car attempts to drive through flood waters near Peachtree Creek near Atlanta, as Tropical Storm Fred makes its way through north and central Georgia on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
BRYNN ANDERSON A car attempts to drive through flood waters near Peachtree Creek near Atlanta, as Tropical Storm Fred makes its way through north and central Georgia on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

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