JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The first named storm of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season made landfall Monday afternoon near Laguna Beach, Florida -- just west of Panama City Beach and nearly 300 miles west of Jacksonville.
As of 5 a.m., the National Hurricane Center said, Alberto was moving north northwest at 13 mph and maximum sustained winds had decreased to 30 mph. Alberto, which is now a subtropical depression, will continue to weaken as it moves north into Alabama and then into the Tennessee Valley, where it's expected to pour heavy rain across that area throughout the rest of week. Forecasters say the Southeast and lower Mid-Atlantic regions should expect 2 to 6 inches of rainfall during that period.
After being named Friday, the subtropical storm traveled northeast from the Caribbean Sea into the eastern portion of the Gulf of Mexico.
Throughout the Memorial Day weekend, Alberto delivered heavy amounts of rain stretching from western Cuba to the Florida Peninsula. Meanwhile, areas along the Florida Panhandle endured tropical storm conditions as thunderstorms and high winds from the storm's northern bands reached inland.
On Saturday, the NHC issued tropical storm warnings that stretched from Gulf Shores, Alabama, to Fort Myers, Florida. By Monday morning, Alberto had produced sustained winds up to 65 mph.
Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia received a significant amount rainfall over the weekend as outer bands of Alberto reached as far east as the Atlantic Coast. The Jacksonville International Airport received 1.37 inches of rain Sunday, according the National Weather Service, while the Gainesville Regional Airport reportedly measured only 0.92 inches.
Alberto's high winds also led to concerns over the threat of storm surge and dangerous rip currents from the coasts of Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. The high risk for rip current is set to remain in effect through midweek.
The preseason storm is not a direct indicator of an above-average season, but we have seen similar storms develop in recent years. Tropical Storm Arlene formed in the Central Atlantic Ocean last April, but had fairly minimum impacts on land.
In late May 2016, Tropical Storm Bonnie hit parts of the southeastern United States and the Bahamas, causing two deaths.
The 2018 hurricane season is expected to be "near- or above-normal." National Oceanic and Atmospheric Atmospheric Administration forecasters are calling for 10 to 16 named storms, including five to nine hurricanes and one to four major hurricanes with Category 3 strength or higher.