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Weekend tropical threat to heighten flood risk across southeastern US

By Faith Eherts, AccuWeather meteorologist
May 24, 2018, 3:17:51 AM EDT

A resurgence of heavy storms and downpours is expected across the southeastern United States beginning this weekend as a tropical feature brews in the Gulf of Mexico.

Stormy weather has been impacting the region for many days, breaking the recent drought but also producing localized flooding.

"We have been monitoring an area of rain and thunderstorms the past few days that extends from the western Caribbean into Florida and the southeastern U.S.," said AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

Kottlowski pointed out that sea-surface temperatures are high enough to support some chance for tropical development.

tropical tracks 5/23

The system could become a tropical depression or storm by the weekend. If the system reaches tropical storm status, it would become the first named system of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season and acquire the name Alberto.

The system is expected to move slowly to the north, emerging into the central Gulf of Mexico by Friday. The impacts of each scenario are very similar despite the diverging tracks.

"Even if the system does not fully develop into an organized tropical system, the overall system will continue to generate periods of heavy rainfall over parts of Florida, the Deep South and parts of the southeastern United States during the next several days," Kottlowski said. "This heavy rainfall will lead to flooding, especially in places in Florida that have already received over 10 inches of rain during the past week or so."

Choppy seas could threaten vessels and make for hazardous beach conditions over the holiday weekend, but winds are not expected to strengthen enough to threaten coastal areas or cause widespread damage.

tropical rain 5/22

Rip currents and increased wave action could threaten Memorial Day weekend beachgoers.

However, flooding will be the main threat with this feature as tropical moisture continues to stream northward from the Gulf.

Tourists hoping to squeeze in time at the beach will need to be especially wary of thunderstorm activity. The most lightning deaths in 2017 occurred in Florida, and more lightning fatalities have occurred there than in any other state.

Decreased visibility and gusty winds in times of heavy rain and thunderstorms could disrupt travel and cause localized instances of wind damage.

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In heavy downpours and storms, travel will slow along major highways such as interstates 95, 85, 75, 20 and 10. Motorists should not try to traverse flooded roadways, as the water may be deeper than it appears or the road underneath could be washed out completely.

Weather extremes such as heavy rain or drought can also lead to sinkhole development, threatening homes, businesses and travel, according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jim Andrews.

Flight delays are possible at major airports such as those in Miami, Orlando and Atlanta through early next week.

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