Storm Alberto closes in on Florida, Alabama and Mississippi

Storm Alberto closes in on Florida, Alabama and Mississippi

Thousands of Florida residents evacuated homes on Sunday as Subtropical Storm Alberto picked up strength as it headed north through the Gulf of Mexico, with forecasters saying it could bring life-threatening inundation to Southern coastal states.

As of 11:00 a.m. ET Sunday, the tropical storm warnings which were in effect for the Dry Tortugas and the north-central Gulf Coast have been discontinued.

About 5 to 10 inches (13-25 centimeters) of rain are possible along affected areas in eastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, western Tennessee and the western Florida Panhandle.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood watch from Sunday evening until Monday morning for the northern two-thirds of the state. Both countries issued tropical storm watches for portions of their coastlines, with rain totals in some isolated areas of up to 25 inches.

Maximum sustained winds are near 50 miles per hour with higher gusts.

Flash flood watches have been posted for much of Florida, and along the Gulf Coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and southwest Georgia.

Jeffrey Medlin, meteorologist in charge at the National Weather Service's Mobile office, warned that even after the storm moves north there will still be swells coming up from the south that could cause unsafe rip currents.

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The National Hurricane Center said that on Sunday, Alberto is expected to bring heavy rainfall and flooding in western Cuba, the Florida Keys and south Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Friday in anticipation of the storm. Still that means the path of the storm will still reach landfall somewhere between Apalachicola, Panama City and Pensacola just before daybreak on Monday.

A subtropical storm like Alberto has a less defined and cooler center than a tropical storm, and its strongest winds are found farther from its center.

"Swells from Alberto will create risky surf and rip currents along the Gulf Coast", the National Weather Service said.

Subtropical Storm Alberto was moving northward through the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday. This is almost 60 miles east and about six hours sooner than the forecast issued by the National Hurricane Center on Saturday. Rappaport found that during the 50-year period of 1963 to 2012, about half of all USA deaths from tropical cyclones were caused by storm surge.

Winds of 40 mph extend outward up to 115 miles from the center. The storm is moving toward the northwest near 9 miles per hour (15 km/h). 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.