Tropical Depression Fred likely to strengthen as it tracks toward Florida

Tropical Depression Fred headed for a drenching of Cuba and the Bahamas on Thursday on a forecast track that would carry it toward south Florida as a tropical storm by Saturday.

The main threat to the U.S. appeared to be heavy rains affecting Florida and parts of the Southeast starting on Friday, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

It said 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 12.5 centimeters) of rain were expected across the Florida Keys and southern peninsula by Monday, with isolated maximums of 8 inches (20 centimeters).

RELATED: Disorganized Tropical Storm Fred will likely be a ‘rainmaker’ for Bay Area this weekend

Already a tropical storm, it was weakened back to depression force by its spin over Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where it knocked out power to some 400,000 customers and caused flooding that forced officials to shut down part of the country's aqueduct system, interrupting water service for hundreds of thousands of people.

Local officials reported hundreds of people were evacuated and some buildings were damaged. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Heavy rains continued to pound Hispaniola, which the two nations share, on Thursday.

The Hurricane Center said the storm had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph (55 kph) Thursday morning while centered just north of Cuba's eastern tip.

It was about 105 miles (170 kilometers) west of Great Inagua Island in the southernmost Bahamas and 180 miles (290 kilometers) east of Camaguey, Cuba.

It was heading west-northwest at 14 mph (22 kph).

Fred was expected to produce 3 to 5 inches (7.5 to 12.5 centimeters) o rain across the Dominican Republic and the western Bahamas, as well as 1 to 3 inches (2.5 to 7.5 centimeters) over Haiti, the Turks and Caicos, the eastern Bahamas, and Cuba.

Fred became the sixth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season late Tuesday as it moved past the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.