SPECIAL REPORT: Alberto not expected to hit hurricane level

| 6/13/2006

The first tropical storm of the 2006 hurricane season is expected to hit the Florida Gulf Coast sometime around midday Tuesday, June 13.

According to the National Weather Service's Alberto advisory at 8 a.m. EDT Tuesday, there was only a slight possibility the storm would become a hurricane before hitting land. Although it weakened overnight, Tropical Storm Alberto still had sustained winds of nearly 65 mph.

The National Weather Service officials kept a hurricane warning in effect for the Gulf Coast roughly from Sarasota to Tallahassee.

According to the advisory, coastal storm surge flooding of 7 to 9 feet above normal tide levels can be anticipated mainly to the east and south of where the center of Alberto is expected to hit land.

More than 20,000 people along Florida's Gulf Coast were ordered to clear out Monday, according to various media reports.

The storm may have actually helped ease another natural disaster that had been occurring in Florida. According to the state's Division of Emergency Management, the heavy rains that preceded the tropical storm helped squelch brush fires that had been causing smoke issues on roads for several weeks.

If it hits land, Alberto will be the earliest storm to do so in 40 years, according to data from the National Weather Service. The earliest on record is Hurricane Alma, which in 1966 hit the Florida Panhandle on June 9 - the ninth day of the hurricane season.

Roads status
As of 9:15 a.m. EDT Tuesday, there were few major road closures related to the storm. On Interstate 275 in Hillsborough County, a bridge was partially closed for inspection after an unsecured barge slammed into it. Two northbound lanes have been reopened, but there is no estimate for the bridge's full reopening.

Another section of road - U.S. 192/U.S. 27 to Hartzog Road in Osceola County - was closed briefly Monday evening, but reopened a few hours later.

Tornados and rain
As with any tropical storm or hurricane, weather events aren't limited to the coast.

Isolated tornadoes are possible over portions of central and northern Florida, southern Georgia and southern South Carolina today, according to the advisory.

According to Tuesday's 8 a.m. advisory, total rainfall amounts of 4 to 8 inches, with potential for 10 inches in some isolated areas, are possible over portions of Florida and southern Georgia through the day.

Rainfall amounts of up to 3 to 5 inches are expected over South Carolina and the coastal plains of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia through Wednesday, according to the advisory.