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Alberto’s winds remain at 65 mph as it churns toward Florida Panhandle

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Despite the rain, Evelyn Padilla and Luis Calzada ride back from Nick’s Bar and Grill to their hotel on Hollywood Beach. Heavy rain, wind gusts, strong rip currents, possible flash flooding and perhaps even tornadoes are forecast across South Florida during the Memorial Day weekend. (Mike Stocker/Sun Sentinel/TNS)

MIAMI — Subtropical storm Alberto, slowly strengthening as it draws closer to the Gulf Coast, set off new tropical storm warnings stretching just north of Naples up past the tip of Florida’s Panhandle on Sunday night.

Forecasters said Alberto was moving northwest near the eastern Gulf of Mexico at 10 mph and that the storm would approach the northern Gulf Coast by Sunday night or Monday. The storm is forecast to become a tropical depression by Monday night or Tuesday.

In the 11 p.m. advisory, the National Hurricane Center said the storm’s maximum sustained winds remained 65 miles per hour with higher gusts, much faster than the 45 mph winds recorded earlier Sunday. Alberto is currently located about 205 miles west of Tampa.

In the earlier advisory, forecasters discontinued the tropical storm warning along the west coast of Florida, south of the Anclote River. A storm surge watch was also discontinued along the northern Gulf Coast, west of Navarre. Still in effect is the tropical storm warning north of that point and up to the Mississippi-Alabama border.

But residents in the northern Gulf Coast will feel Alberto before they see the storm, forecasters say, adding that heavy rainfall and tropical storm conditions will likely reach the region by Sunday night. Those conditions will be felt along the warning zones on the west coast of Florida as well, according to the National Hurricane Center.

In the Florida Keys and the rest of South Florida, Alberto is expected to drop an additional three to six inches, with isolated storm totals of 10 inches, on Sunday, the hurricane center said. Forecasters warn that the storm could bring heavy rain and a risk of flooding and flash flooding to western Cuba, the Keys and South Florida through Sunday.

Bryce Tyner, meteorologist with National Weather Service Key West, said sustained winds at the Key West International Airport Saturday were recorded up to 40 mph. Saturday night, gusts were recorded between 39 mph and the upper 40-mph range, “and that was universal throughout the Keys,” Tyner said.

The most heavy rainfall came Friday night into Saturday morning. A half an inch of rain fell Saturday in Key West, which was less than expected. Still, by Friday, 13.08 inches of rain were recorded for the month of May so far in the Southernmost City, making it the wettest May there since records began being kept in 1871. The previous record, 13.01 inches, was set in 1904, according to the weather service.

Miami-Dade County, expected to be spared from the worst of the storm, is forecast to face heavy rain in squalls, brief gusty winds no stronger than 40 mph and hazardous marine conditions, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott on Saturday issued a state of emergency for all 67 counties “to make sure that our state and local governments are able to coordinate with federal partners to get the resources they need.”

“As we continue to monitor Subtropical Storm Alberto’s northward path toward Florida, it is critically important that all Florida counties have every available resource to keep families safe and prepare for the torrential rain and severe flooding this storm will bring,” he said.

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