ST. PETERSBURG -- A tropical storm watch has been issued for parts of the Tampa Bay area as Subtropical Storm Alberto remains poised to move into the Gulf of Mexico tonight, dumping heavy rain on southwestern Florida on its current track toward the Gulf Coast.

The National Hurricane Center issued the watch from Boca Grande to the Anclote River, and also issued a storm surge watch from Crystal River to the mouth of the Mississippi River as the storm could cause tides to run 2-4 feet above normal.

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Residents along the west coast can expect tropical storm conditions on Sunday, including potentially heavy rain, tropical storm-force winds and localized flooding, forecasters said. It is forecast to produce rainfall totals of between 3 and 5 inches, with 8 inches total along the coast.

A small craft advisory is in effect from Tarpon Springs to the south through Monday. Gale-force winds are possible starting Sunday, and seas could rise 2-4 feet above normal today and 8-11 feet by Sunday morning.

As of 11 a.m., the storm was about 20 miles south of the western tip of Cuba and moving north at 10 mph, with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph -- with higher gusts -- and strengthening expected as it moves into the Gulf of Mexico. Tropical storm-force winds extend up to 140 miles mainly to the east of the storm’s center.

Forecasters say the storm will track to the north-northeast today, and to the northwest on Sunday. Along its current track, it is expected to pass the western tip of Cuba this afternoon and move into the eastern Gulf of Mexico tonight into Monday, and approach the Alabama-Mississippi border Monday night.

Western Cuba can expect about 10-15 inches of rain as the storm passes, with isolated totals of 25 inches that could result in life-threatening flash floods, mudslides, forecasters said. The Florida Keys and southwest Florida could see about 3-7 inches with maximum totals of 10 inches and tornadoes possible.


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