Storm Alberto Weakens as It Nears Florida, Sends Thousands Fleeing

(Reuters) -
Alberto Florida
Nathan Keller walks on the beach in Okaloosa Island, Florida, Monday. (AP Photo/Dan Anderson)

Subtropical Storm Alberto weakened as it neared landfall on the Florida Panhandle on Monday.

Forecasters said Alberto could bring life-threatening high water to southern coastal states when it slams an area from Mississippi to western Georgia with up to 12 inches of rain and possible tornadoes.

Alberto’s top winds fell slightly to 60 miles an hour with the storm about 50 miles south of Panama City, Florida, the National Weather Service said. It was expected to reach land Monday afternoon or evening as it headed north at about 8 mph.

“The basic idea is that it’s going to run out of real estate for it to strengthen” by picking up energy from the warm Gulf of Mexico waters, said Dan Petersen, a forecaster with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.

Alberto, the first named Atlantic storm of 2018, spun up days before the formal June 1 start of the hurricane season.

Authorities in Florida’s Franklin and Taylor counties issued mandatory evacuation orders for thousands of coastal residents. Florida, Alabama and Mississippi are under states of emergency.

The storm will bring powerful winds and heavy rains as it moves into the Tennessee Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday, the hurricane center said. The storm, coming on the last day of the Memorial Day weekend, was expected to scramble holiday travel.

A storm surge warning was in place from the Suwannee River to Navarre, Florida, and a tropical storm warning covered the area from the Suwannee River to the border of Florida and Alabama.