The first named storm of the 2018 hurricane season is preserving its strength as it approaches the Florida panhandle, and is expected to make landfall sometime on Monday in a coastal area normally packed with mob for Memorial Day.
The National Hurricane Center said in its 11 a.m. ET advisory that Subtropical Storm Alberto still has top sustained breezes of 60 mph, and is located about 50 miles south of Panama City, moving north at 8 mph.
“On the forecast track, the center of Alberto will cross the northern Gulf Coast in the warn area this afternoon or evening, ” the center told. “The weakening system is forecast to move well inland into the Tennessee Valley on Tuesday and into the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region on Wednesday and Thursday.”
The NHC warned of life-threatening surf conditions, the possibility of a few brief tornadoes in much of Florida and parts of Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. Heavy rains are also expected in many areas, with some locations considering between up to a foot of rain across the Florida panhandle into Alabama.
Alberto’s approach to the region triggered mandatory evacuations of some small, sparsely populated Gulf Coast barrier islands in one Florida county.
Lifeguards posted red flag along the white sands of Pensacola Beach, where swimming and wading were banned amid high surf and dangerous conditions. The hurricane center said a tropical storm warning given effect from the Suwannee River in Florida to the Mississippi-Alabama state line.
“We’ve get currently, at double red flags, ” Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford told at a news conference Sunday. “That means that people are not allowed to go in the water, there could be legal repercussions if they go in the water because there are very dangerous surf conditions so we do that for their safety as well as the safety of responders.”
The Florida Division of Emergency Management said in a statement Sunday that a mandatory evacuation has been issued in Franklin County for all barrier islands there and those in the district living directly on the coast in mobile homes or in recreation vehicle parks.
The storm’s approach during the busy Memorial Day weekend caused interruptions for local businesses, eating away at profits.
In the seaside town of St. Marks located south of Tallahassee, the threat of severe weather kept many people out of the Riverside Cafe. Bartender John Hargan told WCTV what commonly is a large weekend for the restaurant has instead was transformed into an “all hands on deck” situation to handle any damage.
“We’re going to unplug everything that we can unplug, we’re going to lift it up the best that we can and we’re just going to let mother nature take its course, ” he said.
Another small business, Taylor Airboats, told FOX3 5 they had to cancel some bookings over the weekend.
“I had some people that wanted to go out on the boat ride but I told I don’t think we’re going to make it because it’s coming in pretty quick, ” owner Dennis Inman said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report .
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