Subtropical Storm Alberto may be pulling away from South Florida, but the heavy rain and potential flood risk isn't going anywhere. In fact, conditions could get worse before the get better.
A Flood Watch continues for all of South Florida through 8 pm Sunday evening, and the National Weather Service could extend it into Monday.
As of 11 am, Subtropical Storm Alberto was located 130 miles west of Tampa and moving to the north at 14 mph. The storm has been rather disorganized for most of its life over water (thus the “subtropical” classification), but has recently become more tropical in nature. “With deep convection closer to the center and a slightly smaller radius of maximum winds, it appears that Alberto is beginning its transition to a tropical cyclone,” the National Hurricane stated in their Sunday morning update. Further strengthening is anticipated prior to landfall, which is now projected to be early Monday morning in the vicinity of Panama City Beach.
The primary (and most known) hazard from Subtropical Storm Alberto has always been, and still is, heavy rain. Even though drier air briefly cut down on rain coverage Sunday afternoon, a new batch of moisture is poised to move in overnight, leading to a very wet start to the Memorial Day holiday. Intense rainfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour may occur during stronger thunderstorms, and this could cause a rapid water rise in low-lying areas, nearby ditches and retention ponds that are already filled to their banks. Additional rainfall accumulations of 4 to 6 inches over the next three days are expected in many areas, with locally higher amounts possible.
The weekend downpours were brought on by the season's first named storm, Subtropical Storm Alberto, which was gaining momentum and strength as it moved through the eastern Gulf Sunday morning. Alberto is forecast to make landfall between Panama City and Destin, Florida early Monday morning as a strong tropical storm. This is nearly 60 miles east and about six hours sooner than the forecast issued by the National Hurricane Center one day ago, but well within the margin for error two days out.
Tropical Storm Warnings continue for nearly the entire Gulf Coast of Florida, and a Storm Surge Watch continues for coastal regions from the Nature Coast to Pensacola. A Flash Flood Watch is also in effect for the entire Florida Panhandle - including all inland areas - through Monday night.
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. The risk for rip currents will also remain high at area beaches for several days, and water enthusiasts are encouraged to use caution or check with local authorities before entering the water.
The Florida Public Radio Emergency Network will provide frequent updates on their “Florida Storms” Twitter and Facebook accounts over the coming days as Alberto moves ashore and the hazardous weather pattern remains in place.