Subtropical Storm Alberto forms; on track for Gulf Coast

Tropical depression formation expected Saturday

Technically, hurricane season begins June 1, but the first cyclone of the year has already arrived.

Alberto, a pre-season subtropical storm, formed over the Northwestern Caribbean Sea Friday morning and will bring a wide swath of tropical moisture across the region as it moves northward in the Gulf of Mexico over the weekend. "This system could also bring tropical-storm-force winds and storm surge to portions of the northern Gulf Coast by late this weekend or early next week".

"However, once over water, it should develop into an organised tropical or subtropical storm system during the weekend". One to four hurricanes could be considered "major" with sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour.

Update 11 a.m.: The first forecast models are in from the NHC, and they show Alberto avoiding South Florida. As Alberto lifts slowly north northwest though the east central Gulf of Mexico, widespread rainfall amounts of 3 to 5 inches with locally higher amounts will be possible over the watch area through the holiday weekend. The rain is expected to intensify into Sunday and continue into Memorial Day.

While some models project Alberto's strongest sustained winds will reach 65 miles per hour, the biggest threat for many in the northern Gulf states - including the Wiregrass area - is heavy rainfall.

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Typically water temperatures need to be at least 80 degrees for a tropical storm to form.

Tropical storm watches are in effect for Tulum to Cabo Catoche, Mexico, and the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Friday afternoon that the tropical storm watch has been issued from Indian Pass, Florida, westward to Grand Isle, Louisiana along a swath that also includes parts of Alabama and Mississippi. Flooding in those areas is expected. The hurricane center said up to 12 inches of rain was possible across the Florida Keys and southern and southwestern Florida. It's not until mid-week that the rain chance dips to 40 percent, which is more typical for South Florida's rainy season.

Some areas under the heavier bands could receive up even more. "There could be some possible high surf with hazardous high risk of rip currents along the beaches".

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