Storm Alberto maintains strength as it approaches Gulf Coast

Tommy Whitlock left places a filled sand bag onto his trailer at a Harrison County Road Department sand bag location as Joseph Buckner adjusts the load while preparing for Subtropical Storm Alberto to make its way through the Gulf of Mexico (Credit AP

Tommy Whitlock left places a filled sand bag onto his trailer at a Harrison County Road Department sand bag location as Joseph Buckner adjusts the load while preparing for Subtropical Storm Alberto to make its way through the Gulf of Mexico (Credit AP

Beaches in Florida were largely empty ahead of Memorial Day as a slowly intensifying storm carrying brisk winds and heavy rain approached the U.S. Gulf Coast on Sunday.

The storm had maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour (85 kph) and was moving north at 8 miles per hour (13 kph).

Thousands of Florida residents evacuated homes on Sunday (May 27) as Sub-tropical Storm Alberto picked up strength as it headed north through the Gulf of Mexico, with forecasters saying it could bring life-threatening inundation to southern coastal states. The storm could move East later in the week.

The Storm Prediction Center outlines a low-end, "marginal" risk of severe storms in the region Tuesday because of Alberto's remnants; the primary threat would be a brief tornado developing within the tropical rain bands.

Alberto is slated to hit land just west of Panama City, Fla. - which is predicted to get more than 6.5 inches of rain through Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service's office in Tallahassee.

A storm surge watch means life-threatening conditions are possible from rising water moving inland from the coast.

Between four and eight inches of rain could pummel Florida Panhandle, eastern and central Alabama, and western Georgia before the storm moves on.

Subtropical Storm Alberto is making landfall near Laguna Beach.

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At the moment its growth is being hindered by strong winds in the upper atmosphere, but as the storm tracks northwards these winds are expected to ease, allowing the storm to complete its transition into a fully tropical system.

Lifeguards posted red flags along the white sands of Pensacola Beach, where swimming and wading were banned.

An official from the National Weather Service warns that even after Subtropical Storm Alberto passes, there's still a risk for rip currents.

Alberto has been a subtropical storm since its formation because it lacked the warm core that forms the core of tropical storms.

Hurricane season doesn't officially begin until June 1, but Alberto apparently missed the memo. Mudslides are also possible in Cuba, the NHC said. However, the storm should not be taken as an indicator of how this hurricane season will play out, he said.

Maximum sustained winds are near 50 miles per hour with higher gusts.

Authorities in Howard County, Maryland, said a 39-year-old man was missing after flash flooding from a separate storm tore through the historic downtown of Ellicott City on Sunday.

The heaviest rain is expected Monday morning. Because of the potential for higher rain totals over the next two days, a flood watch continues.

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