Storm Alberto maintains strength as it approaches Gulf Coast

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Forecasters cautioned that heavy rain and tropical storm conditions could reach the northern Gulf Coast well ahead of the center of Alberto making landfall.

By midday Sunday, the US Southeast was seeing 50-mile-per-hour (80-km-per-hour) winds and up to 10 inches of rain in some places. In between the rain, mostly to partly cloudy skies will prevail with muggy conditions.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, the storm was about 105 miles north-northwest of the western tip of Cuba or about 150 miles southwest of the Dry Tortugas, according to the National Hurricane Center. The center of the storm passed far enough west of the contiguous Florida Keys to avoid placing the region under a tropical storm warning. An update from his office shows more than 5,000 Florida National Guard members on standby.

Officials in one Florida Panhandle county say that Subtropical Storm Alberto will likely dump rain on the region, but they're less concerned about storm surge.

"Locally heavy rainfall is forecast across western Cuba and over much of Florida and the northern Gulf coast into early next week", senior hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart said in Friday's tropical weather outlook.

Storm Alberto has continued roiling toward parts of coastal Mexico and Cuba with rip currents and risky surf on Saturday. The storm prompted Florida, Alabama and MS to launch emergency preparations over the weekend amid expectations Alberto would reach land sometime Monday.

"It's maintained its strength and wind speeds overnight, and it looks like it's headed for landfall at Panama City, (Florida)", said David Roth, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

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Forecasters say heavy rains from Subtropical Storm Alberto could cause flooding across most of SC.

The storm now has maximum sustained winds of almost 50-miles-per-hour and is likely to become a tropical storm.

Alberto, which spun up days before the formal start of the 2018 hurricane season, was moving north at about 20 kilometres per hour with maximum sustained winds near 64 kilometres per hour, and higher gusts, on Saturday, the NWS said. Warnings for wind and storm surge have been issued for that area.

Beaches in Florida were largely empty ahead of Memorial Day as the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, Subtropical Storm Alberto, approached the northern Gulf Coast carrying brisk wind and heavy rain.

Tropical storm warnings are in effect from the Mississippi/Alabama border all the way through to Bonita Beach, Florida. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes. Forecasts for disorganized systems without a well-defined center are always less certain.

While the coastal hazards, such as choppy seas and gusty winds, are expected to subside by Tuesday, the persistent onshore flow is likely to keep rain chances elevated for the entire state through the end of the week.

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