May 25, 2018 - Science

Subtropical Storm Alberto forms in Gulf of Mexico, threatens flooding

Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center monitor a new storm in the Gulf of Mexico on May 24, 2018.

Hurricane Specialist John Cangialosi (L) and Dennis Feltgen, the communications and public affairs officer, look at weather data at the National Hurricane Center on May 24, 2018 in Miami, Florida. Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

After watching an area of disturbed weather for several days, the National Hurricane Center has determined that Subtropical Storm Alberto has formed in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm, currently near the Yucatan Peninsula, is forecast to crawl northward throughout the holiday weekend.

The impact: The storm is eventually likely to come ashore somewhere between Louisiana and the Florida Panhandle early next week — possibly as soon as Memorial Day. The storm's biggest threat will not be its winds, but rather, its rains.

  • The National Weather Service is projecting rainfall totals approaching a foot from southern Florida to Louisiana, due to Alberto's slow movement. Therefore, widespread flooding is the biggest concern from this storm. It's also likely to ruin Memorial Day barbecues for millions along the Gulf Coast.
  • In addition, it could disrupt oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico if energy companies are forced to evacuate workers from offshore facilities.

But hurricane season hasn't officially started: The Atlantic hurricane season officially kicks off on June 1, but Mother Nature doesn't always adhere to our calendar. The fact that Alberto has formed prior to the seasonal kickoff doesn't mean we're in for as rough a hurricane season as last year either.

What is a subtropical storm? A subtropical storm has characteristics of a tropical storm as well as a non-tropical, or "extra-tropical," weather system. Oftentimes, such storms evolve into purely tropical weather systems, with the strongest winds and heaviest rains located near the center of the storm.

Track the storm: National Hurricane Center.

Go deeper