Alberto, the first named tropical storm of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season made landfall today, bringing heavy rain and strong winds to the northwestern corner of the Sunshine State. The official hurricane season hasn’t even begun yet.
As the Associated Press reports, hurricane season doesn’t officially begin until June 1, but that hasn’t stopped the first big storm from forming out in the ocean and bearing down on the Gulf Coast. Fortunately, Alberto never reached hurricane status, or even tropical storm status, and is instead being called a “subtropical storm.”
That doesn’t mean that Florida Panhandle residents won’t feel at least some pain from the storm: authorities are warning of flash flooding and winds of up to 45 miles per hour as the storm winds westward.
Officially, Alberto made landfall at 4:50 p.m. Eastern Time, coming ashore at at Laguna Beach, about 15 miles northwest of Panama City. So far, Alberto doesn’t appear to have caused any real problems, although it’s still early.
Already tornado warnings have been issued across the panhandle, although so far it doesn’t appear as if there has been much tornado damage. However, as the storm moves north and west, flooding will be a major concern, particularly in communities such as Orange Beach. Mayor Tony Kennon said that Alberto has kept tourists away from the town during what could have been its busiest weekend, although a few brave souls showed up.
Even Atlanta isn’t going to be spared of Alberto’s wrath; WFAA-TV reports that the storm will bring rain and thunderstorms to the area, which as already been battling thunderstorms the past few days. Flash flooding may occur around the city.
Forecasts predict the storm will move almost due north beginning Monday night, heading across Alabama into the Tennessee Valley, into the Ohio Valley, and then across the Great Lakes and even into Canada before finally petering out.
So does the fact that the first named storm of the hurricane season came before the season begins portend a terrible year for hurricanes? Probably not, according to WFOR-TV. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted a near-normal or above-normal season, with 10 to 16 named storms, five to nine of those being hurricanes. One to four hurricanes could be “major” with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.
Meanwhile, hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski told AccuWeather that, Alberto notwithstanding, June and July aren’t going to bring much in the way of hurricanes. The real threat doesn’t come until August and September.