Wind and storm surge watches issued for Florida as Alberto resumes northward trek
Wind and storm surge watches went up across the Florida Gulf coast late Friday as Alberto continued creeping north.
In a 5 p.m. advisory, forecasters said the storm, located 85 miles south of Cozumel, Mexico, had resumed heading north about 2 mph with sustained 40 mph winds. The storm is expected to pass near the YucatÃ¡n coast Friday night and continue to the north over the weekend, nearing the U.S. coast and increasing in intensity.
Friday evening, forecasters said they expected dry air to keep the storm f rom strengthening to a hurricane, but warned that could change.
Broad winds that now extend 140 miles from the storm's center could help push a two to four-foot storm surge across parts of the Gulf coast, where a storm surge watch extended from Florida's Big Bend to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Tropical storm conditions may be felt within 48 hours along the Panhandle to eastern Louisiana.
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Heavy rain remains the storm's biggest threat, with the Keys expected to get four to eight inches. Up to 12 inches could fall in some locations. The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for South Florida beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday until 8 p.m. Sunday.
Cuba and the YucatÃ¡n Peninsula could get 10 to 15 inches, with up to 25 inches in harder hit locations, increasing the risk of dangerous flash floods.
While the center of the storm is expected to stay well off the Florida coast, winds blowing from the southwest could pile up water all along the coast. Once it makes landfall, it could stall and trigger worse flooding.
"When it gets inland, it will be a slow mover, so this could be a horrific flooding event up there," National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said.National Hurricane Center
Forecasters upped the storm's status on Friday after local buoys and ship readings reported higher winds. It was designated subtropical because strong upper level winds continue to shear the top, leaving it lopsided. A subtropical system packs the same hazards as tropical storms â" heavy rain and wind â" but lacks the warm center. Stronger winds also wrap around the storm's edges, rather than the center.
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As it moves north, the shear is expected to subside and allow the st orm to transition into a more dangerous tropical storm over warm water.
"In the northern Gulf, the upper winds wonât be an issue any more. The storm will get better organized so we expect it to strengthen," Feltgen said. "You certainly canât rule out that it could become a hurricane."National Hurricane Center
Because the storm's center is so messy, forecasting the track also remains difficult. A large ridge to the east should turn it north for the next 24 hours. Saturday and Sunday, it's expected to follow a steadier northern track and begin turning northwestward Sunday night and Monday, with its speed picking up as it nears the Gulf coast Monday night.
Wind shear over the next day will likely keep it from intensifying, but new model runs now show the winds weakening a little sooner than previously. Forecaste rs said they expect the storm to now peak Monday morning when the shear slows. They expect dry air to keep it from further strengthening, but warn that could change.
Forecasters also warned that the location of the storm's center far from the Florida coast could be misleading.
"Donât let that fool you because the wind flow on the east side may bring very rough surf," said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski. "As it becomes more persistent, it will create a pileup of water, so the concern is for southwest Florida, or the west coast to Apalachicola Bay, which could get a big inundati on of water because of the constant wind blowing and a lot of places are very prone to flooding."
A hurricane hunter plane was scheduled to fly into the storm later Friday.
With the storm sucking so much moisture from the Caribbean, South Florida should get ready for a soggy holiday weekend.Forecasters say heavy rain remains the biggest threat, with the wettest side of the storm falling to the east as shown in this Friday morning satellite image. Source: NOAA Weather Prediction Center
"There will be a surge in tropical moisture over South Florida beginning today and lasting through Memorial Day weekend," Larry Kelly, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Miami office, said Friday morning. "That's really the main concern."
Flooding is possible in Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties after weeks of rain that in some locations pushed total rainfall to more than two and three times usual May amounts. Gusty winds and rough seas should increase Saturday, with tornadoes possible Saturday and Sunday. Rip currents are also expected on both coasts, the Miami weather office said.
The city of Miami announced it will close its public pools through Monday and open a mini dump Saturday for residents to dispose of bulky items on Northwest 20th Street.
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