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US Gulf Coast braces for Alberto

Normally packed with vacationers over the Memorial Day weekend, beaches along the eastern US Gulf Coast were largely empty yesterday as a slowly intensifying storm carrying brisk winds and heavy rain approached.Subtropical Storm Alberto — the first named storm of the 2018 hurricane season that officially starts June 1— prompted Florida, Alabama and Mississippi to launch emergency preparations on Saturday. Rough conditions were expected to roil the seas off the eastern and northern Gulf Coast region through Tuesday.“These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions,” the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in a statement.Gusty showers were to begin lashing parts of Florida yesterday, and authorities were warning of the possibility of flash flooding.The National Weather Service said that tropical storm warnings cover the entire Florida Gulf Coast and inland portions of the Florida Panhandle as well as parts of coastal Alabama.Isolated tornadoes were possible across the region yesterday and today.About 13 to 25 centimeters of rain are possible along affected areas in eastern Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, western Tennessee and the western Florida Panhandle. Isolated areas could see as much as 38 centimeters.Under overcast skies and occasional drizzle, several Mississippi residents lined up to fill 5- and 9-kilogram bags with sand they will use to block any encroaching floodwater expected as a result of Alberto.Alberto is expected to strengthen until it reaches the northern Gulf Coast, likely at tonight. The downpours could dampen Memorial Day, the unofficial start of the summer tourist season along Gulf beaches.