Subtropical storm Alberto has formed and is churning over the northwestern Caribbean Sea just east of the Yucatan Peninsula. His path is taking him into the Gulf of Mexico.
As of mid-morning, Alberto had top sustained winds of 40 mph and was located 55 miles south of Cozumel, Mexico. Movement is to the north-northeast at six miles an hour.
“It’s not very well organized, hence that’s why call it a ‘sub-tropical storm,’” said Jack Cullen, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Mobile.
A subtropical storm has a less defined and cooler center than a tropical storm, and its strongest winds are found farther from its center. But, a subtropical can develop into tropical storms -- which in turn can strengthen into hurricanes.
Cullen advises not to get caught up in the terms “tropical” or “subtropical,” because the end result will likely be the same.
“Eventually, when [Alberto] gets over the Gulf – little warmer water, little better conditions – it will become fully tropical,” said Cullen. “The impact to us, really either way, are going to be the same – high surf; rip currents, which are our number-one killer down here, are going to be on the increase the rest of the week.”
And, of course, very heavy rainfall for the next few days.
“Some areas could get over a foot of rain; possibly up to two feet in some locations,” Cullen said. “It all depends on where the storm goes and how strong it gets. With this amount of rain, all areas are subject to flooding especially on the coast where the higher totals are expected to be.”
Another flash flood watch covering Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties will begin at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, and extend to 7:00 p.m. Tuesday.
“We are monitoring Alberto at our emergency operations center,” said Escambia County spokeswoman Joy Tsubooka. “Our staff is participating in weather conference calls with the National Weather Service and the state.”
County officials take that information, and develop plans to keep the public informed and prepared. For now, Tsubooka says they’re in the monitoring phase.
“We do have our staff ready to respond through the weekend, and right now it looks like it’s going to be a rain and a bit of a flooding event,” Tsubooka said. “But that is subject to change; we still are pretty far out, when you’re talking a storm like this.”
Keeping an eye on Alberto enables the county to coordinate pre-emptive actions if needed, says Tsubooka, such as evacuating flood-prone areas. Meanwhile, she says residents need to review their storm plans – especially in the event of an evacuation call.
“They can go to www.myescambia.com/knowyourzone, and they can look up what evacuation zone they are, and then see the specific impacts of storm surge for their property,” said Tsubooka. “And it does do it graphically.”
For residents who can use them, the county is offering sandbags, and places where they can be filled.
“The sandbags are not effective for storm surge situations, but they can be effective if they’re laid properly for a flooding issue,” said Tsubooka. “So we do have sand available at eight locations around the county.”
Preparation is the key, says Tsubooka.
“Three gallons of water for each person and pet in your home,” said Tsubooka. “And the other supplies – the canned food and a battery-operated radio so they can stay in tune when the power goes out.
More information can be found at the National Hurricane Center website, and at www.myescambia.com.