Subtropical Storm Alberto moved northward across the eastern Gulf of Mexico this weekend. The track for the storm was a bit further east than expected, sparing a large portion of the eastern Gulf of Mexico from very rough seas due to strong winds on the eastern side of the low. Sites off the coasts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana saw offshore winds through the weekend, which helped keep seas at a reasonable height. As of Sunday evening, the highest offshore sea observation was just over 16 feet, which was located just northwest of Alberto’s center well off the Florida Panhandle.
A Hurricane Hunter reconnaissance mission Sunday evening found sustained winds near the center of the storm to be near 65mph, indicating that the low began a rather significant strengthening trend while approaching the Panhandle. The storm had been struggling to gain strength through the afternoon hours on Sunday as dry air was pulled toward the center of the storm. After around 6pm CDT, satellite imagery was starting to indicate that the storm was beginning to shed the dry air to the north. This, combined with warm sea surface temperatures and decreasing wind shear likely aided in the strengthening during the early evening hours last night.
Although Alberto maintained relative strength through the night on Sunday and into today, it was never fully able to shed its dry air problem. The storm looks to make landfall across the western Florida Panhandle early this afternoon. Near the center of the low, wind damage continues to be a threat with sustained winds of 60mph and higher gusts, but the main concern over the southeastern United States over the next 48 hours will be widespread heavy rainfall, with portions of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia receiving 4-8 inches with isolated higher totals.
Although Subtropical Storm Alberto never attained fully tropical characteristics, it was an early reminder that the hurricane season is upon us. Through the summer, DTN Marine Meteorologists will monitor each and every storm, bringing critical information to interests offshore.