Normally packed with vacationers over the Memorial Day weekend, beaches along the eastern U.S. Gulf Coast are largely empty as a slowly strengthening storm carrying brisk winds and heavy rain approaches.
Alberto is the first major storm of the 2018 hurricane season, which runs through the fall and often brings heavy storm damage to the Gulf Coast and southeastern United States.
Florida, Alabama and MS declared states of emergency on Saturday as the storm threatened up to 12 inches of rain over the Memorial Day weekend, as well as tidal surges and damaging winds, according to Patrick Burke of the weather service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
Heavy downpours were expected to begin lashing parts of Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on Sunday.
The Mississippi Coast shouldn't see much rain from the system until Monday. As it travels up the warm waters of the Gulf, it could well become a full tropical storm. In Mississippi, Gov. Phil Bryant said on Twitter that he has signed an emergency proclamation to make the National Guard and other resources available.
A storm surge watch is in effect along the US gulf coast, from Crystal River to the mouth of the Mississippi River.
Florida, Mississippi, Alabama declare emergencies
The National Weather Service said: "Swells from Alberto will create risky surf and rip currents along the Gulf Coast".
Regardless of its path and intensity, Alberto expected to bring heavy rains of more than 10 inches and flash flooding to western Cuba and southern Florida, the National Hurricane Center said.
A tornado "or two" may occur over the Florida Keys and parts of southwestern Florida later Saturday afternoon or evening. As of late Sunday night, it had 65 mph winds, and the center was roughly 100 miles south of Apalachicola, Florida.
At about 2 p.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Alberto was centered about 65 miles north-northwest of Cuba and moving north at 13 mph.
A tropical storm warning has been issued for the Mississippi/Alabama border to the Aucilla River in Florida. Water could reach up to 4 feet above ground in some areas if the peak surge occurs during high tide, the agency said on Facebook. "Hazardous storm surge is possible along portions of the central and eastern Gulf Coast beginning Sunday".
His Mississippi and Alabama counterparts also declared states of emergency, citing the threat of coastal and inland flooding from storm rains.
The river rose 17.8 feet in two hours Sunday afternoon to 24.13 feet, setting a new record from the previous high of 23.6 feet. Family photos rested among debris after flash flooding in Ellicott City, Md ., today.
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Brief tornadoes are possible from northern Florida into central and southern Georgia, southern SC and southeastern Alabama . Rain was in the forecast for the Orlando area as subtropical storm Alberto approached the Florida Panhandle Monday morning.
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