Tropical Storm Alberto (1994)
Satellite image of Alberto near landfall
|Formed||June 30, 1994|
|Dissipated||July 7, 1994|
|Highest winds||1-minute sustained:
65 mph (100 km/h)
|Lowest pressure||993 mbar (hPa); 29.32 inHg|
|Damage||$1 billion (1994 USD)|
|Areas affected||Florida Panhandle, Alabama, Georgia|
|Part of the 1994 Atlantic hurricane season|
Tropical Storm Alberto was the first storm of the 1994 Atlantic hurricane season. It hit Florida across the Southeast United States in July, causing a massive flooding disaster while stalling over Georgia and Alabama. Alberto caused $1 billion in damage (1994 USD) and 30 deaths.
A tropical wave moved off the coast of Africa on June 18. It moved westward across the dry, shear-ridden Atlantic Ocean, and remained weak until passing through the Greater Antilles. Deep convection developed over the wave in response to light vertical shear and warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, and organized into Tropical Depression One near the Isle of Youth on June 30. A trough of low pressure brought the depression to the northwest over the Gulf of Mexico, remaining weak due to increased upper level shear. The shear abated, allowing the depression to strengthen into Tropical Storm Alberto on July 2.
Alberto continued to the north-northeast in response to a short wave trough, and steadily strengthened as the convection became embedded around the center. Tropical Storm Alberto peaked with maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour (105 km/h) just as it was making landfall near Destin, Florida. The storm would have likely attained hurricane status had it been over water just hours longer, as a warm spot was apparent, indicating the formation of an eye feature. Alberto quickly weakened to a tropical depression over Alabama as it continued to the northeast, but retained a well-organized circulation. High pressures build to its north and east, causing the remnant tropical depression to stall over northwestern Georgia. It turned to a west drift, and dissipated over central Alabama on July 7.
On June 30, on the day of Alberto's formation, a tropical storm warning was issued from Puerto Juárez to Mérida, Mexico; the warning was discontinued on July 1. In the United States, a tropical storm watch was posted on July 2 for locations between Sabine Pass, Texas and Pensacola, Florida. The watch was subsequently upgraded to a tropical storm warning from Gulfport, Mississippi to Cedar Key, Florida; it was soon altered to a hurricane warning. Later on July 3, the hurricane warning was discontinued in replace of a tropical storm warning, which was lifted at 2100 UTC.
On the Florida Panhandle, residents boarded up windows in anticipation of what was to be a "fury". At gasoline stations, unusually long lines formed, and local stores did increased business in selling emergency supplies. Thousands of tourists along the coast left the region; a local deputy was quoted as estimating that 10,000 people checked out of their hotels early. On Okaloosa Island and Holiday Isle, ground-floor house and businesses were forced to evacuate. Civil-defense authorities evacuated residents from low-lying locations. Then-Governor of Florida, Lawton Chiles, declared a State of emergency for parts of the state, and advised residents along the coast to monitor updates regarding the storm. Over 3,000 people sought refuge in Red Cross shelters along the coast of Florida, westward into parts of Alabama.
At Destin, Florida, sustained winds blew at 63 miles per hour (101 km/h), while winds gusted to 75 miles per hour (121 km/h); however, there was an unofficial report of 86 miles per hour (138 km/h) gusts. There, barometric pressure fell to 993 mb in association with Alberto. Storm tides of 5 feet (1.5 m) was estimated along the coast of Destin, while tides reached 3 feet (0.91 m) at Panama City. At St. George Island, wind gusts reached 58 miles per hour (93 km/h). Beach erosion and tidal flooding occurred along the coast. Throughout northwest Florida, 5 inches (130 mm) of rain fell, with totals as high as 21.57 inches (548 mm). Other precipitation accumulations include 13.25 inches (337 mm) at Caryville.
Along the coast, damage was limited to sea walls, piers and boats, and roof damage to some beachfront motels. As the storm progressed inland, it brought down signs, billboards, trees and powerlines, and triggered moderate flooding; about 18,500 customers lost electric power. As a weakened tropical depression, the remnants of Alberto dropped extensive rainfall throughout the region. As heavy rain fell to the north, tremendous volumes of water moved down major river systems into the Florida Panhandle. As a result, there was extensive river flooding that exceeded 100-year events in some locations, particularly along the Apalachicola and Chipola Rivers. The Apalachicola remained above flood stage until August, although in localized areas, flooding persisted until September due to Tropical Storm Beryl. A total of 300,000 chickens and 125 cattles and hogs were lost within the state, and offshore, 90% of the oysters in Apalachicola Bay were lost. The flooding was severe, inflicting $40 million (1994 USD) in damage to infrastructure, $15 million in insured damage, and $25 million in agricultural losses.
While Alberto remained nearly stationary over western Georgia, torrential rainfall amounts were observed. Due to a previously stalled cold front, which subsequently caused Alberto to stall, the ground was already saturated with rainfall. Virtually all of the rain associated with Alberto became instant runoff into streams and rivers. The average rainfall in northwest Georgia averaged 7 inches (180 mm). Southeast of the path of Tropical Depression Alberto in central and south Georgia, rainfall was measured in much greater amounts, and precipitation from the tropical cyclone peaked at 27.85 in (707 mm) near Americus. In that city, flood waters threatened 21,000 acres of peanuts and other crops such as cotton and corn. Numerous streets, businesses, and homes were flooded in Americus. Nine people died after cars washed off of inundated roads. Two other fatalities occurred after flood waters destroyed a home on Lake Jackson and another after a mobile home was swept away. 22.8 inches (580 mm) of precipitation fell in Plains, inundating several homes, and businesses. A tractor trailer on U.S. Route 280 washed away, killing the three male occupants of the vehicle. Additionally, flood waters approached the home of former President of the United States Jimmy Carter, but no damage occurred. Standing water also covered numerous roads in Leslie. On Lake Corinth, a 17 year old boy attempted to fix a downed telephone line, but died after his boat capsized.
For a time, the city of Macon, GA was completely cut off by flood waters severing all roads in and out of the city. Most of the city lost all water service during the height of flood when two major treatment plants were flooded. It took almost two weeks before service was restored. The city of Montezuma, GA was the hardest hit of all when the flood levee was topped by the nearby Flint River. The entire downtown area was inundated with up to 18 feet of water. Cleanup would take months to complete.
Rainfall totals between 4 and 7 inches (100 and 180 mm) flooded numerous culverts, houses, and roads in Rockdale County. Additionally, a 16 year old girl drowned after attempting to rescue a dog. At the Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, 7.05 inches (179 mm) of rain was recorded, forcing many to evacuate flooded apartments in nearby College Park.
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Because of the severe flooding in the state of Georgia, then-governor Zell Miller declared 30 counties in a state of emergency, which included the following counties in central Georgia: Bibb, Butts, Crawford, Dooly, Houston, Jones, Lamar, Macon, Monroe, Peach, Sumter, Taylor, Twiggs, and Upson.
Despite the severe flooding and high property damage toll, the name Alberto was not retired in the spring of 1994.
- Other storms of the same name
- List of wettest tropical cyclones in the United States
- List of floods
- List of Florida hurricanes (1975-1999)
- Timeline of the 1994 Atlantic hurricane season
- Edward Rappaport. "Tropical Storm Alberto Preliminary Report Page 10". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-12-07.
- Jason Vest (July 4, 1994). "Tropical Storm Alberto Not So Tough; As `Fury' Sputters, Only Tourism Is Hit Hard in Florida Panhandle". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- Staff Writer (July 3, 1994). "Florida Braces for Tropical Storm Alberto". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- Staff Writer (July 4, 1994). "Tropical Storm Hits Florida, but Damage Is Little". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- Staff Writer (July 3, 1994). "Season's 1st Tropical Storm Heads for Gulf Coast". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- Associated Press (July 3, 1994). "Storm Headed for Florida". The Victoria Advocate. Retrieved 2008-12-17.
- Reuters (July 4, 1994). "First Tropical Storm Pounds Florida". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2008-12-17.[dead link]
- Edward Rappaport. "Tropical Storm Alberto Preliminary Report Page 3". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- Associated Press (July 2, 1994). "A tropical depression that dumped up to 10". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- "Flood Event Report for Florida". National Climatic Data Center. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- "High Wind Event Report for Florida". National Climatic Data Center. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- Edward Rappaport. "Tropical Storm Alberto Preliminary Report Page 10". National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- National Weather Service. "Tropical Storm Alberto Floods of July 1994 Disaster Survey Report". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2008-12-18.
- "Storm Data - July 1994". National Climatic Data Center. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
- "Carter's house is 'high and dry'". Deseret News. Associated Press. July 7, 1994. Retrieved September 14, 2012.
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