US Gulf Coast braces for Alberto battering

Geraldine Edwards
May 29, 2018

Subtropical storm Alberto, the first named storm of the season, is expected to spread tropical storm conditions along the west coast of Florida Sunday.

A satellite image shows subtropical storm Alberto in the Gulf of Mexico. With maximum sustained winds of 45 miles per hour (72 kph), Alberto was moving north at 9 miles per hour (14 kph). Later, it cancelled storm surge warnings for most of the Florida peninsula, saying the Panhandle remained the focus of concern.

Flooding was possible in Florida's Miami-Dade and Monroe counties after weeks of rain, with tornadoes possible Saturday and Sunday and rip currents expected on both coasts, forecasters said. Lifeguards posted red flags along the white sands of Pensacola Beach, where swimming and wading were banned because of high surf and risky conditions.

A storm surge warning was in place from the Suwannee River to Navarre, Florida and a tropical storm warning covered from the Suwannee River to the border of MS and Alabama.

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The Governors of Florida, Mississippi and Alabama declared states of emergencies ahead of the first named storm of the 2018 tropical season. It is still predicted to bring extremely heavy rain, gusty winds and, just east of where the center makes landfall, a rise in ocean water of up to several feet above normally dry land. The storm comes during the Memorial Day weekend and was expected to scramble transportation on Monday as many people return from holiday travel.

Some rain is possible for Memorial Day today but the greatest chance comes Tuesday when Subtropical Storm Alberto makes a northward journey through the state.

A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Mississippi/Alabama border to the Aucilla River in Florida.

Waters off the eastern and northern Gulf Coast are expected to be rough through Tuesday.

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From the Florida Panhandle across eastern and central Alabama and into western Georgia, people can expect from 4 to 8 inches of rain, with isolated cases of 12 inches of rain, the NHC said.

AL.com reported that double red flags are flying at beaches in Panama City and other areas, which means there are life-threatening rip currents. And in the Tampa Bay area on the central Gulf Coast, cities offered sandbags for homeowners anxious about floods.

Steady weakening of the storm is forecast as it moves inland.

Alberto comes after a series of deadly hurricanes in the United States and Caribbean previous year that walloped places including Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, causing hundreds of billions of dollars in damage, massive power outages and devastation to hundreds of thousands of structures. They will develop northwest of the Tennessee Valley late Thursday into early Friday and move southeast as a large "complex" of storms.

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