Tropical Storm Alberto may form in Gulf of Mexico Memorial Day holiday weekend

Concern is growing that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season may start early with the formation of Tropical Storm Alberto this Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The system that AccuWeather meteorologists have been monitoring this week has become better organized over the eastern Yucatan Peninsula.

"This developing system will have a tough time strengthening while over land into most of Friday," AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said. "However, once over water, it should develop into an organized tropical or subtropical storm system during the weekend."

If the system strengthens into a minimal tropical storm, it would acquire the name Alberto.

Environmental conditions should limit how strong the storm will become. However, even if the storm remains below hurricane strength, it may still create hazards for residents and vacationers in the southeastern United States this holiday weekend.

Tropical May 24

"Consensus is for the storm to track inland somewhere between easternmost Louisiana and Florida's Apalachee Bay," Kottlowski said. Cities that lie in the potential track include New Orleans; Gulfport, Mississippi; Mobile, Alabama; and Pensacola and Panama City, Florida.

The storm may reach the upper Gulf coast as early as Sunday or landfall can be delayed until Memorial Day.

Rain and wind is expected to increase around the storm as it strengthens, causing seas to build and become dangerous for boaters and swimmers across the central and eastern Gulf of Mexico. The danger of rip currents may also increase at the Atlantic Ocean beaches of the Southeast during the holiday weekend.

The gusty winds that may accompany the storm onshore could be strong enough to cause sporadic tree damage and power outages.

Where the winds push water from the Gulf of Mexico onshore, coastal flooding may result near and east of the storm's track.

"Coastal flooding can occur along Florida's west coast and the coastal communities of the panhandle," Kottlowski said. "This rise in water will also impact coastal, bay and inlet areas of the northern Gulf of Mexico."

Even if the storm fails to strengthen into a tropical depression or storm, a resurgence of downpours is expected to spread across the Southeast. Downpours may return to South Florida as soon as Friday before expanding northward into Memorial Day.

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Severe spring weather across the U.S. in 2018
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Severe spring weather across the U.S. in 2018
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Severe weather builds up over Northwest Philadelphia, PA, on Primary Election Day, May 15, 2018. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MAY 12: Rain clouds are seen over between Lower Manhattan and Jersey City in New York, United States on May 12, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 14: People stand under a tree as rain starts to fall as a severe thunderstorm passes over the U.S. Capitol, on May 14, 2018 in Washington, DC. The area was hit with heavy rain and high winds from the early evening storm. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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LAKEWOOD, CO - MAY 14: A man covers himself with his coat as he walks down west Colfax Avenue during a heavy rain and hail storm on May 14, 2018 in Lakewood, Colorado. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 12: Members of the Philadelphia Phillies ground crew roll out the tarp to cover the field due to an incoming storm before the start of a game between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets at Citizens Bank Park on May 12, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
HOBOKEN, NJ - MAY 10: Lightning strikes New York City next to Hudson Yards on May 10, 2018 as seen from Hoboken, New Jersey. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MAY 12: Rain clouds are seen over Lower Manhattan in New York, United States on May 12, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - APRIL 16: People walk over a pedestrian crossing with their umbrellas on a rainy day in New York, United States on April 16, 2018. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
MADISON, CONNECTICUT -APRIL 6: Snow settles on a daffodil as an April springtime snowfall covered the East Coast of the United States on April 6, 2018 in Madison, Connecticut. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - APRIL 2: Snow covered buildings are seen in Brooklyn borough of New York, United States on April 2, 2018. (Photo by Mohammed Elshamy/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - MARCH 21: A woman stands with her umbrella during a late season snowstorm in Time Square, Manhattan in New York. The fourth nor'easter in three weeks hit the city on March 21, 2018 in New York, United States. (Photo by Atilgan Ozdil/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, March 21, 2018: People carrying ski gears walk past the Reflecting Pool in Washington D.C., the United States, on March 21, 2018. A late-season nor'easter, the fourth of its kind in three weeks, is targeting the northeast United States on Wednesday, bringing heavy snow and strong winds to the region. Washington, which is already snow-covered, is expected to see up to 6 inches of snow, as some models suggesting much high totals for the capital. Federal offices are closed for the snowstorm as the White House announced early Wednesday that all public events for the day were cancelled. (Xinhua/Ting Shen via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, March 22, 2018 : Photo taken on March 21, 2018 shows the Statue of Liberty seen in the snow storm in New York, the United States. Thousands of flights were canceled and public schools were closed as the fourth snow storm in three weeks began hitting New York City and its neighboring areas on Wednesday. (Xinhua/Li Muzi via Getty Images)
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Near and east of where the storm comes onshore in the upper Gulf Coast may be subject to widespread 4-8 inches of rain. A track toward Florida's Panhandle may also bring these heavy rain totals to more of the state's peninsula.

Worse than ruining holiday picnics, parades and other celebrations, that amount of rain can lead to flooding in some communities. Officials may be forced to close roads, while the current of streams that typically serve as swimming locations can become too dangerous to enter.

Downpours May 24

Farther inland, those spending the holiday weekend in Jackson, Mississippi; Birmingham and Montgomery, Alabama; Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia; and Columbia, South Carolina; should also remain vigilant for potential flooding downpours this holiday weekend.

A downpour moving over Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday evening could delay or halt NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600.

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Even in the absence of flooding, downpours will create hazards for holiday travelers. Visibility will be reduced and the risk of vehicles hydroplaning when traveling at highway speeds will increase.

"However, there will be a sharp contrast in the weather on the storm's western side," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said. "Winds will be much lighter west of the storm's track, and drier air being pulled into the storm will keep these areas largely rain-free."

Memorial Day May 24

As a result, those celebrating Memorial Day in Houston will be finding ways to keep cool instead of dodging thunderstorms.

This tropical threat should serve as a reminder to all residents in hurricane-prone areas that now is the time to review preparedness tips.

Kottlowski anticipates that this year's Atlantic hurricane season will not be quite as active as 2017 but still near to slightly above normal.

"This season may not [bring] as many impacts [as the devastating 2017 hurricane season], but I'm almost afraid to tell people this because it only takes one big storm to hit you to cause massive damage," he said.

"You should have a hurricane plan in action. In other words: If you had to evacuate, what would you take with you? And if you were staying home, how would you deal with a storm that may knock your power out, may knock your water service out," he said.

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