As state authorities issued warnings of possible flooding and storm surge because of Subtropical Storm Alberto, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for all 67 counties Saturday morning.
"As we continue to monitor Subtropical Storm Alberto's northward path toward Florida, it is critically important that all Florida counties have every available resource to keep families safe and prepare for the torrential rain and severe flooding this storm will bring," he said. The state of emergency declaration is "to make sure that our state and local governments are able to coordinate with federal partners to get the resources they need."
"Do not think that only areas in the cone will be impacted," Scott added. "Everyone in our state must be prepared."
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Forecasters have warned Alberto, the first named storm of the season, is likely to bring torrential rains and flooding to the state — particularly the panhandle and south Florida. A tropical storm watch has been declared for the state's panhandle west of Gulf County, and a storm surge watch has also been declared for the panhandle west of Dixie County. Authorities suggested the alerts could be upgraded to warnings later Saturday. A flood watch has been issued for South Florida through the holiday weekend.
At a weather briefing at the state emergency operations center Saturday morning, authorities urged Floridians to take the storm seriously.
"The only thing that we know about Alberto so far is that we don't really yet know Alberto," said Wes Maul, the state's emergency management director. "The timing is uncertain, the impacts are uncertain, the intensity is uncertain… The entire state is going to see impacts regardless."
Maul warned that the state's panhandle region and south Florida are likely to bear the brunt of Alberto's rains, though the entire state could be threatened by swelling riverbanks, tornadoes or localized flooding.
"Don't take this subtropical fancy language for granted," he said.
State meteorologist Amy Godsey echoed the concern. The subtropical label "doesn't mean the impacts are gonna be any less severe. It actually means the impacts could be more wide-reaching than a typical tropical storm."
The storm is currently forecast to start affecting the state sometime Sunday, though Godfrey warned Alberto could move faster than expected. If the storm does speed up, it could hit the state six to 12 hours earlier, nearing Florida's west coast as early as Saturday night.
Forecasters are predicting at least three to six inches of rain across the state, though the western panhandle and south Florida could see rainfall up to 10 inches in the next five days.
"We're saturated," Godfrey said. "It won't take much to create those flood conditions."