Florida panhandle braces for impact as Alberto approaches

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Subtropical Storm Alberto will strengthen Sunday, making itself felt from MS to Florida as it moves north in the Gulf of Mexico.

Alberto - the first named storm of the 2018 hurricane season that officially starts June 1 - is expected to strengthen until it reaches the northern Gulf Coast, likely on Monday night. The storm has maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour and the NHC says it is moving north-northwest at 12 miles per hour.

Tropical storm watches remain in effect for all coastal Big Bend counties and all of Franklin and Liberty county. For information specific to your area, please see products issued by your local National Weather Service forecast office. This has prompted the National Hurricane Center to issue a Tropical Storm Watch for much of the Greater Tampa Bay Area. The storm had top sustained winds of 85 km/h.

In the Florida Keys and the rest of South Florida, Alberto is expected to drop an additional three to six inches of rain, with isolated storm totals of 10 inches, on Sunday.

Alberto's tail of moisture will still be near or over South Florida on Tuesday and Wednesday so more thunderstorms are expected, though the moisture levels in the atmosphere will begin dropping.

Tropical Storm Warnings now issued for coasts of Alabama and Florida Panhandle
Tropical Storm Warnings now issued for coasts of Alabama and Florida Panhandle

Alberto, the first named Atlantic storm of 2018 which spun up days before the formal start of the hurricane season, is forecast to pack maximum sustained winds near 50 miles per hour (85 kph) and dump as much as 12 inches (30 cm) of rain, slamming an area from MS to western Georgia, it said.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, who issued a state of emergency on Saturday across the the region, said on Sunday that the National Guard has 5,500 members ready to be deployed. The storm now has maximum sustained winds of almost 50 miles per hour. Gradual strengthening is forecast until the system reaches the northern Gulf Coast. Alberto is now located about 165 miles west of Tampa. As it travels up the warm waters of the Gulf, it could well become a full tropical storm. The storm is expected to make landfall along the coast of the Florida panhandle sometime Monday. Elsewhere, for the Piedmont and most of the Triad, expect partly sunny skies and muggy conditions with highs in the low to mid 80s.

The Hurricane Center says Alberto is headed toward the Florida Panhandle. Some severe storms may be possible Tuesday, with Alberto's remnants making the closest approach from the west at that time.

Winds of 40 mph extend outward up to 115 miles (185 km) from the center.

Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency for the area rebuilding from a devastating flood about two years ago that killed two people and damaged dozens of buildings.

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