Tropical Storm Alberto was the first named storm of the 1994 Atlantic hurricane season. Alberto formed on June 30 just to the west of the Isle of Youth. Alberto moved west, then northwest, entering the Gulf of Mexico. It then became a tropical storm, and was initially a threat to Louisiana. However, Alberto turned north and made landfall along the Florida Panhandle near Destin. Florida on July 3. Alberto quickly weakened to a tropical depression after landfall and then essentially stalled in the vicinity of Alabama and Georgia, producing very heavy rainfall which caused significant flooding. Alberto dissipated on July 7, but its remnants persisted until July 10.
Alberto killed 30 people, all directly. In addition, it caused $531,000,000 (1994 USD) in damage.
|Formation||June 30, 1994|
|Dissipation||July 7, 1994|
|Highest winds||65 mph|
|Lowest pressure||993 mbar|
|Damages||$531,000,000 (1994 USD)|
|Areas affected||Florida, Alabama, Georgia|
|Part of the||1994 Atlantic hurricane season|
Alberto's origins can be traced to a tropical wave that was first detected in rawinsonde data from Dakar, Senegal on June 18. Satellite images indicate that the wave then progressed westward across the Atlantic Ocean for the next several days accompanied by a broad area of low clouds as well as a hint of dust. The wave produced showers over the Lesser Antilles, although little deep convection occured until a cluster of thunderstorms developed over the waters just north of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico early on June 26. On June 28, when the wave neared the central Bahamas, it was disrupted by strong upper-level westerly wind shear associated with a shortwave trough moving eastward into the Atlantic Ocean. Beginning on June 28, water vapor imagery and sounding data showed the axis of a narrow mid-to upper-level trough becoming nearly stationary from southern Florida to the northern portion of the Yucatan Peninsula. Southwesterly winds ahead of the trough axis were rather light. Because of this, when the wave moved across Cuba and the adjacent waters of the Carribean Sea on June 29, it encountered light vertical wind shear, which caused deep convection to rapidly increase and become concentrated over central Cuba. Rawinsonde data from Camaguey, Cuba indicated the presence of a closed low at 850 mb and 700 mb. A little bit later, surface observations indicated the first signs of an associated surface low in that area. By midday on June 30, the wave crossed the Isle of Youth and was located near the western tip of Cuba. The first hurricane hunter flight into the area, by a NOAA aircraft, indicated a well-defined circulation at 1000 feet, along with a central pressure of 1008 mb at 1902 UTC. Based on these observations as well as earlier ship and land reports, it is assumed that the wave developed into Tropical Depression One with 30 mph winds near 0600 UTC June 30. Initially, the depression moved westward at 7 knots.
A low aloft was then forming within the trough just to the west of the depression. This low quickly moved westward and was located over the south-central Gulf of Mexico by July 1. In addition, the next mid-latitude shortwave trough moved eastward across the northern Gulf of Mexico. This combination put the depression in a modest, mainly southerly steering flow as well as shear. The depression gradually turned to the north, but remained disorganized with a partially exposed low-level circulation center as seen on satellite imagery. The low aloft moved further away from the depression, into the southwestern Gulf of Mexico. Reconnaissance aircraft data indicate that the depression strengthened into Tropical Storm Alberto near 0000 UTC July 2. Later that day, the ship Robert E. Lee reported sustained winds of nearly 50 mph while located 40 miles north of Alberto's circulation center. Late on July 2, a third shortwave trough approached the central Gulf states. The steering flow ahead of the trough axis accelerated Alberto to the north, from 7 to 12 knots. This track took the cyclone to the Florida Panhandle. Alberto continued to intensify during this time, with its circulation becoming more embedded within the deep convection. Alberto reached its peak intensity of 65 mph along with a pressure of 993 mb when it made landfall near Destin, Florida at 1500 UTC July 3. During this time, visible satellite imagery revealed showed a warm spot near the center of the Central Dense Overcast that may have been the first stages in the development of an eye.
Radar image of Tropical Storm Alberto at landfall.
After landfall, Alberto quickly weakened to a tropical depression near 0000 UTC July 4. Alberto's northward progress was then hampered and eventually halted when it was bypassed by the aforementioned third shortwave trough, as well blocked by a high pressure system that built behind the trough, to the north of the cyclone. By 1800 UTC July 4, Alberto's central pressure rose to 1014 mb and the sustained surface winds decreased to about 25 mph. Surface observations indicate that Alberto's circulation spun down very slowly after that time. Also, satellite imagrey as well as WSR-88D doppler radar continued to show a well-defined circulation moving through eastern Alabama and western Georgia until late on July 7. Alberto produced heavy rainfall during that period, causing a number of floods that continued for many days after Alberto dissipated.
Tropical Storm Alberto caused the worst disaster in Georgia's history, and one of the worst in Alabama's history. Alberto's heavy rains killed 28 people in Georgia and 2 in Alabama. Alberto also caused $500,000,000 (1994 USD) in damage, mostly from crop or property damage.
Rainfall near the center as well as rainfall from the inflow band to the south led to torrential rainfall along the Florida Panhandle and Georgia. During this period, massive amounts of rain fell in the area, with Albany, Georgia receiving 24 inches of rainfall within a 24 hour period. The highest rainfall total from Alberto was three miles southwest of Americus, where 27.85 inches fell, with much of that rain falling within a 24 hour period. The Flint River rose to its highest recorded level, reaching several miles or kilometers wide in some areas, including Albany and Macon in the state of Georgia. The flooding from the Flint River shut down part of Interstate 75. The Chattahoochee River also flooded, but not as badly due to dams. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from low-lying areas, even well outside and above the normal flood plains of the rivers. Among thousands of homes along with hundreds of businesses, the campus of Albany State University was flooded up to the second floor. The significant water pressure from the flooding caused caskets to pop up out of the ground in cemeteries, with some of them getting hung up in trees downstream, along with drowned livestock.
Rainfall totals from Tropical Storm Alberto.
Lack of Retirement
Despite the damage and loss of life, the name Alberto was not retired in the Spring of 1995 by the World Meteorological Organization. It was used again during the 2000 Atlantic hurricane season, and was also used during the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season. It is on the list of names to be used for the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season.