MIAMI – A storm moving slowly across the Caribbean threatens heavy rains, mudslides, and flash floods this weekend in parts of Mexico, Cuba, Florida, and the US Gulf Coast.– the first storm of the 2018 hurricane season – shook parts of the coastal Mexico and Cuba on Friday with raging currents and dangerous surf. Both countries issued tropical storm watches for portions of their shorelines, with rainfall in some isolated areas of up to 25 inches.
U.S. The forecasters followed a tropical storm watch for parts of the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle southwest of Tallahassee to the Greater New Orleans area.
"The flood potential will increase in this region early next week as Alberto slows down after moving inland," said the hurricane center.
The National Weather Service said that a flash flood watch would apply from Saturday night to Tuesday night for the southeastern Mississippi, southwestern Alabama and the western Florida panhandle. A storm surge guard was also issued for parts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.
A subtropical storm has a less defined and cooler center than a tropical storm, and its strongest winds are farther from its center. Subtropical storms can develop into tropical storms, which in turn can amplify into hurricanes. Alberto is ahead of schedule: the six-month hurricane season does not begin until June 1st.
Parts of Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana have already experienced heavy rain this week, and further flooding could make these areas vulnerable to floods and river floods. Some communities on the beach and on the riverbank are already distributing sandbags.
The downpours could dampen Memorial Day, the unofficial start of the summer tourist season along the Gulf beaches. Along with heavy rains and strong winds comes the rough seas and the risk of raging currents from Florida to Louisiana, which can sweep swimmers into the sea.
In Tallahassee, the city and Leon County will open several Sandbag locations to the public on Friday to prepare for the possibility of heavy rainfall over the weekend, reports CBS Tallahassee subsidiary WCTV.
A Panama City Beach, Florida hotel owner tells the Panama City News Herald that her family's five hotels are usually full on the weekend of Memorial Day. But Julie Hilton said people are canceling because of the weather and room reservations have dropped 20 percent.
Heavy rain could also be bad news for farmers. Georgia Peanut Commission Chairman and Farmer Armond Morris and Tyron Spearman of the National Peanut Buying Points Association inspected a peanut field in South Georgia Thursday. They told WALB-TV that the farmers are worried about already soaked seedlings.
"I just hope all peanuts will be alright, but we may have to replant a few peanuts," Morris said.
Only 65 percent of the Georgia Peanut Harvest in 2018 was planted.
"The harvest is not growing as well as it should," said Scott Monfort, peanut agronomist at the University of Georgia Tifton. "So we get some cases of yellow peanuts that just do not grow."
What is a subtropical storm?
The National Hurricane Center defines the term subtropical storm as a "subtropical cyclone" in which the maximum sustained wind speed – using the one-minute US average – is 39 mph or higher. Subtropical storms have colder centers than tropical storms, but they can eventually develop into tropical storms and then hurricanes.
What is a Tropical Stormwatch?
A Tropical Storm Guard indicates that tropical storm conditions are possible for the area's timeframe. The latest information from NOAA, the Cuban province of Pinar del Rio and areas of Mexico from Tulum to Cabo Catoche should monitor Alberto for the next 24 hours.