Subtropical Storm Alberto brings early start to hurricane season

Subtropical storm Alberto is the first named storm of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.

The National Hurricane Center announced Friday morning that a subtropical storm had formed over the northwestern Caribbean Sea. Alberto will likely make for a rainy holiday weekend in Tampa Bay with gusty winds and dangerous rip currents on local beaches.

According to the hazardous weather outlook from the National Weather Service in Ruskin, afternoon and evening thunderstorms are expected today continuing through mid-week. Thunderstorms will be capable for producing gusty winds, heavy rain and frequent deadly lightning strikes. Localized flooding of streets and low-lying areas is possible.

Small craft advisory conditions are expected over coastal water this weekend into early next week. Increased risk of rip currents at area beaches is likely. Caution is advised.

Pinellas County Emergency Management is advising residents to prepare for increasing moisture and a renewed threat for more widespread heavy rainfall from late Friday into the weekend.

Local impacts are expected to include:

• An additional three to five inches of rain through the next seven days.

• Locally, rainfall may exceed six inches.

• Localized flooding is likely in areas that see higher rain totals and are susceptible to flooding.

• Stream and river flooding concerns through the week remain due to the continued threat for heavy rain.

Alberto brought an early start to the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, which doesn’t start officially until June 1. It is the first of as many as 16 that could form if predictions from NOAA are correct.

Neil Jacobs, assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction, revealed NOAA’s 2018 Hurricane Outlook May 24. The Climate Prediction Center is giving a 75 percent change that the season will be near-or above normal. Forecasters predict a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, 35 percent chance of an above-normal season and a 25 percent change of a below-normal season.

An average season, which runs from June 1-Nov. 30, has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Climatologists gave a 70 percent chance that as 10-16 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher could form this year, of which five-nine could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, and one-four major hurricanes, Category 3 or above, with winds of 111 mph or higher.

County officials say that now is a good time for residents to review their preparedness plans in case of a weather-related event or emergency. Residents can also sign-up for Alert Pinellas to receive emergency notifications directly to their phone and email. Visit www.pinellascounty.org/alertpinellas to sign up. Residents can also download the Ready Pinellas app to view preparedness checklists and customized plans by visiting the Apple App Store or Google Play.

For more information about preparing for weather-related events or emergencies, visit www.pinellascounty.org/emergency.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.