Thousands evacuate as Storm Alberto churns toward Florida

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Normally packed with vacationers over the Memorial Day weekend, beaches along the eastern U.S. Gulf Coast were largely empty Sunday as a slowly intensifying storm carrying brisk winds and heavy rain approached.

The coastal hazards associated with Alberto, namely high surf, coastal flooding, and minor surge will begin to affect portions of southwest Florida Saturday night, moving up the coast to west-central sections of the state on Sunday.

About 5 to 10 inches of rain are possible along affected areas in eastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, western Tennessee and the western Florida Panhandle. On Saturday evening, a wind gust of 47 miles per hour was reported by the National Weather Service in Key West, Florida. For a depiction of areas at risk, please see the National Weather Service Storm Surge Watch/Warning Graphic, available at hurricanes.gov.

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. The storm has already moved from the Yucatan Peninsular in the western Caribbean and those itineraries are expected to arrive back at their homeports on scheduled.

South Florida remains under a Flood Watch through Sunday night as Subtropical Storm Alberto continues to drop relentless rain across South Florida and the eastern Gulf Coast.

With conditions expected to worsen overnight, officials are encouraging people planning to check out Monday to give themselves extra time.

Alberto approaching Cuba as it begins to make turn north
Gov. Rick Scott declares state of emergency across Florida over fears of subtropical storm Alberto

Maximum sustained winds are near 65 miles per hour (100 km/h) with higher gusts.

The Taylor County Board of County Commissioners signed a local state of emergency Sunday morning for Subtropical Storm Alberto. A storm surge watch has been discontinued west of the Florida/Alabama border. The NOAA's Climate Prediction Center's annual forecast says up to four hurricanes could form in the Atlantic this hurricane season, and that overall the intensity of this hurricane season will probably be near or above normal.

Alberto comes after a series of deadly hurricanes in the United States and Caribbean past 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.

Heavy rainfall and tropical storm conditions will likely reach the northern Gulf Coast well before the arrival of the center of Alberto. Both types of inland flooding - flash flooding and river flooding - are possible over the next few days, especially considering the size and depth of Alberto's moisture field.

TORNADOES: A couple of brief tornadoes are possible on Monday across much of Florida into central and southern Georgia, southern SC, and southeastern Alabama.

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