Hurricane season: The first named tropical storm, Alberto, forms in the Gulf of Mexico

Tropical Storm Alberto formed Wednesday in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, the first named storm of what is forecast to be a busy hurricane season.

Alberto, which brings strong winds, heavy rain and some flooding along the Texas and Mexican coasts, is expected to make landfall in northern Mexico on Thursday.

“Heavy rain and water, as usual, are the bigger story in tropical storms,” ​​said Michael Brennan, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center.

Alberto was located 185 miles (about 300 kilometers) east of Tampico, Mexico and 295 miles (about 480 kilometers) south-southeast of Brownsville, Texas. It had maximum sustained winds of 40 mph (65 kph), according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. A tropical storm is defined by sustained winds between 39 and 73 mph (62 and 117 kph), and above that the system becomes a hurricane.

Brennan said winds could reach between 45 mph (72 kph) and 50 mph (80 kph) before the storm makes landfall.

Between 13 and 25 centimeters (5 inches) of rain is expected in some areas along the Texas coast, with isolated even higher totals possible, Brennan said. She said some higher places in Mexico could receive up to 50 centimeters (20 inches) of rain, which could cause landslides and flash flooding, especially in the states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila and Nuevo León.

At the Miramar Inn Hotel in Tampico, Mexico, near where Alberto was expected to make landfall, receptionist Diana Flores said the wind was gusty, but not yet strong, and that the rain had not yet started. “There are people in the restaurant and on the beach,” Flores said early Wednesday morning.

Outer bands of rain hit parts of the state of Tamaulipas in far northeastern Mexico overnight.

The storm was moving west at 9 mph (15 kph). Tropical storm warnings were in effect from the Texas coast in the San Luis Pass south to the mouth of the Rio Grande and from the northeastern coast of Mexico south of the mouth of the Rio Grande to Tecolutla.

“Rapid weakening is expected once the center moves inland, and Alberto is likely to dissipate over Mexico” on Thursday, the center said.

The US National Weather Service said the main danger to the south Texas coast is flooding caused by excess rain. On Wednesday, the NWS said, there is “a high probability” of flash flooding along the south Texas coast. Tornadoes or waterspouts are possible.

NOAA predicts that the hurricane season that began June 1 and runs through Nov. 30 will likely be well above average, with between 17 and 25 named storms. The forecast calls for up to 13 hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 14 named storms, seven of them hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Brennan said that, on average, the first named system in the Atlantic arrives on June 20, so Alberto is “more or less on schedule.”

An unnamed storm in early June dumped more than 20 inches (50 centimeters) of rain on parts of South Florida, stranding numerous motorists on flooded streets and pushing water into some homes in low-lying areas.

Brennan said there will be dangerous rip currents due to the storm and drivers should be cautious about road closures and turn around if they see water covering roads.

“People underestimate the power of water and sometimes don’t always take rain and the threats it brings seriously, especially if you’re driving in an area and you see water covering the road, you don’t want to get into it. Brennan said. “You don’t know how deep the water is. The road may be washed out. It doesn’t take more than a few centimeters of moving water to move your car.”

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