Subtropical Storm Alberto lost strength as it came ashore near Laguna Beach in Florida Monday, bringing heavy rains that threaten the U.S. South with economic losses of $1 billion.
Alberto was 15 miles (24 kilometers) from Panama City, Florida, when it came ashore with winds of 45 miles per hour, down from 65 mph earlier, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in an advisory at 5 p.m. New York time.
Even as it weakens, it’s causing flash floods across the Florida Panhandle and raising ocean levels on the coast by almost three feet. Still, some energy companies in the Gulf of Mexico resumed operations. Chevron Corp. restored production at its Blind Faith and Petronius platforms, which it had halted over the weekend.
Flood watches, warnings and advisories stretch from the Gulf Coast to Indiana and southern Virginia, as Alberto is forecast to wring itself out while moving north toward Canada, where it will be absorbed by another weather front in 3 to 4 days, the center said. Governors in Florida, Mississippi and Alabama on Saturday declared states of emergency. The storm could also spawn a few tornadoes.
“From an economic standpoint most of the damage is already done, probably $600 or $700 million worth of lost economic activity due to rain, warnings and preparations,” said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler at Enki Research in Savannah, Georgia. “Alberto might cause a couple hundred million in damage at worst when it does make landfall, and there is still flooding potential.”
Hardest hit will be small businesses that expected revenue from Memorial Day weekend tourists, Watson said.
As Alberto reached the coast, the warning area was scaled back from the Suwannee River back west to the Florida-Alabama state line. A storm surge watch was posted from the river to Mexico Beach, Florida.
On May 25, Exxon Mobil Corp. pulled non-essential personnel from its Lena oil production platform and Royal Dutch Shell Plc shut in its Ram Powell hub.
But most other energy companies left offshore crews in place as they watched 2018’s first Atlantic storm. Alberto formed several days ahead of the June 1 official start of the six-month Atlantic hurricane season.
Storms in the Gulf are closely watched because 5 percent of U.S. natural gas and 17 percent of crude-oil production comes out of the region, according to the Energy Information Administration. Onshore areas along the coast also account for about 45 percent of U.S. refining capacity and 51 percent of gas processing.
–With assistance from Sheela Tobben, David Wethe, Amy Stillman, Kevin Crowley and Ben Sharples
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