The subtropical storm moving through the Caribbean Sea has already forced Mexico and Cuba to issue tropical storm watches for portions of their coastlines. Storm Alberto is moving faster than first believed and is now expected to arrive off the Gulf Coast of the United States roughly six to 12 hours earlier, reaching Florida as early as Saturday night.
At 5 a.m. Eastern on Saturday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said Alberto was moving northeast toward the Yucatan Channel and was centered 95 miles southeast of Cozumel, Mexico. Citing Alberto’s 40 m.p.h. winds that are expects to get stronger as it heads north, the agency expanded its Tropical Storm Watch, prompting Florida Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency for the entire state.
“As we continue to monitor Subtropical Storm Alberto’s northward path toward Florida, it is critically important that all Florida counties have every available resource to keep families safe and prepare for the torrential rain and severe flooding this storm will bring,” Governor Scott said. He explained that he chose to declare the state of emergency “to make sure that our state and local governments are able to coordinate with federal partners to get the resources they need.”
Meanwhile, a storm surge watch was also issued for parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. These states, as well as Georgia, have faced heavy rainfall this week and the most vulnerable coastlines are already handing out sandbags and bracing for Alberto’s arrival.
The National Weather Service says a flash flood watch is in effect from Saturday evening and may last through Tuesday evening depending on Alberto’s next move. The storm is currently expected to reach Florida’s west coast as early as Sunday morning.
For the next five days, the Gulf Coast states will be vulnerable to heavy rainfall, flash floods, and possible mudslides. However, South Florida and the panhandle region are likely to be the most affected, where forecasters expect up to 10 inches of rainfall. The state of emergency may seem premature, but given the severity of past storms, the government intends to use “an abundance of caution.”