National Hurricane Center forecasters were closely watching the season’s first tropical storm on Monday evening and were unsure if Alberto would strengthen into a hurricane overnight or maintain its speed just below Category One hurricane level as it moved toward Florida’s northwestern Gulf coast.
Gov. Jeb Bush told Florida residents to take Tropical Storm Alberto seriously and to make preparations for the storm to make landfall. He said that after recent hurricane activity residents should immediately make sure they had everything they needed. He signed a bill that would authorize him to call out the National Guard.
Monday afternoon, Bush issued a mandatory evacuation alert requiring residents living west of U.S. Highway 19 to move into emergency shelters. Emergency management agencies helped more than 20,000 residents move from threatened areas.
High surf was already slapping Florida’s beaches and heavy rain and flooding were encountered from Tampa northward to Cedar Key. During the Monday afternoon rush hour, even Orlando drivers plodded through heavy rain and flooded highways.
NHC’s Monday evening forecast predicted that Alberto would come ashore on Tuesday morning or afternoon between Tampa and Tallahassee, with both cities on the outside of the cone. Forecasters were also tracking the storm across Florida toward Jacksonville. They said Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina should prepare for heavy rain.