Storm Alberto: Florida and Mississippi declare states of emergency

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(Reuters) – Florida and Mississippi on Saturday declared states of emergency as Subtropical Storm Alberto moves north toward the U.S. Gulf Coast, threatening to bring heavy rainfall and flooding by Monday.

A view of a partially flooded farm as Subtropical Storm Alberto passes by the west coast of Cuba, in Bahia Honda, Cuba, May 26, 2018. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

All 67 Florida counties were issued the notice to give state and local governments enough time and resources to prepare, Florida Governor Rick Scott said in a statement.

“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,” Scott said.

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His Mississippi counterpart, Phil Bryant, also declared a state of emergency. In a statement, Bryant said coastal and inland flooding could be a serious issue in the coming days.

“Whether you’re a resident of this state or just visiting, you need to stay updated on this evolving tropical system,” Bryant said. “I ask everyone to please make final preparations to your family emergency plan, especially those that live in mobile homes and low-lying areas.”

The storm is expected to approach the U.S. northern Gulf Coast on the Memorial Day holiday on Monday, the National Weather Service (NWS) said. A tropical storm watch is in place from the New Orleans area to the Aucilla River in the Florida panhandle.

Alberto, the first named storm of the 2018 hurricane season, was moving north near 10 miles (16 km) per hour with maximum sustained winds near 40 miles per hour with higher gusts on Saturday, the NWS said. Gradual strengthening is forecast until the system reaches the northern Gulf Coast by Monday night.

Heavy rains from the slow-moving storm were expected between 5 to 10 inches (13-25 cm), with up to 15 inches possible along from eastern Louisiana, across much of Mississippi, Alabama, western Tennessee and the western Florida panhandle, the NWS said.

Alberto’s projected storm track has shifted eastward since Friday, lessening its threat to the active oil production areas in the Gulf of Mexico. Royal Dutch Shell plc (RDSa.L) and Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) had evacuated some personnel from offshore Gulf oil facilities on Friday.

On Saturday evening, the storm was last located about 95 miles (153 km) north of the western tip of Cuba and 275 miles (440 km) southwest of the Dry Tortugas, which is almost 70 miles (113 km) west of Key West, Florida, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Additional reporting by Gary McWilliams in Houston; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Marguerita Choy

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