Tropical Storm Alberto, pardon, Sub-Tropical Storm Alberto, is here and gone, with not much damage, but some explaining to do.
The reason for that is because over the Memorial Day weekend, a typically busy time for tourists, St. George Island and other barrier island were ordered evacuated, and this angered several people.
“Once you have people that understand that sustained winds of up to 65 miles per hour, that’s not just a thunderstorm,” said Pam Brownell, director of the emergency operations center. “Plus you’re looking at two to four feet of storm surge on top of high tide.
“There was a lot of phone calls made, a lot of nasty negative comments on Facebook,” she said. “Other than that it went ok.”
The mandatory evacuation order for the island, as well as Bald Point, Alligator Point, Dog Island, mobile homes, RV parks and low-lying areas, went out Sunday morning. With it came telephone numbers for motels inland.
“We had to explain to them the reason the decision was made because of the surge, and the fact that if you stay on that island, and the bridge closes, then you’re not coming across and we’re not coming across to get you,” said Brownell.
“We understand it’s a long weekend, it’s a big weekend,” she said. “We have to do what is best for life and safety in this county. We put calling it off as long as we could.
“We don’t have a choice,” Brownell said. “It’s a liability for the county; it falls back on the county. If you’re a homeowner and you decide to stay you can stay, but it’s with the understanding that nobody’s coming to get you. Lifeflight don’t fly in a storm.”
As it turned out, recorded sustained winds in Apalachicola, reached speeds of 33 miles per hour, with 46 miles per hour gusts, according to the National Weather Service, and that’s not including speeds over the water, where the Florida Highway patrol, one of several agencies hunkered down at the Apalachicola airport, reviewed speeds at the county’s WeatherStem station on the end of the old St. George Island bridge.
The St. George Island bridge was ordered closed late Monday morning, but reopened not long after when the winds had died down.
Brownell said that the Florida Department of Transportation is surveying for damage this week. No roads were washed out, although portions of US 98 between Eastpoint and Carrabelle were washed out up to the road. “I saw on my ride down 98 between the school and Waddell Road, the shoulder of the road is gone, it’s up to the pavement,” she said.
She said ditches have filled up, and there’s isolated flooding, but no major disaster anywhere. Trees had fallen over the road in places, but sheriff’s deputies helped chop them up and remove them, and this week inmate crews from the jail have been busy clearing debris.
“We appreciate all of our deputies out working for the community during these dangerous weather conditions,” said Sheriff A.J. Smith.
Brownell said there were several power outages in Apalachicola and Carrabelle, not too widespread and for not too long. The St. James Bay Rehabilitation Center was out for a while, and had to rely on its generator. “It wasn’t very long before they had them up and running,” she said.
Brownell said that in order to do a damage assessment, for possible inclusion of the county in a disaster declaration, she is asking that owners of a primary residential structure, not a secondary home, send pictures, call or email the emergency operation center.
“Not seawalls, and not piers,” she said. “This is so that we’ve captured our damages so that we may be able to get into that declaration. It gives us a start on the mitigation process, and we may be eligible for that.”
She cautioned that there may be river flooding later this week, when waters from up north empty into the basin down here.
By the way, if you’re wondering, Alberto was considered a Subtropical Storm, because an area of low pressure formed over waters with sea-surface temperatures of at least 70 degrees. A subtropical low then formed, due to the core of the storm becoming warm, deriving some of its energy from latent heat, or energy released when water vapor that evaporated from the warm water is condensed into liquid.
A subtropical storm exhibits features of both tropical and non-tropical systems, which include no cold or warm fronts, a broad wind field and thunderstorms removed some distance from the center of circulation.
Mature subtropical systems also often have a large, cloud-free center and a less symmetric wind field. Maximum sustained winds are also much farther from the center, while the strongest winds in a tropical storm are close to the center.
If the subtropical storm remains over warm water, thunderstorms can build close enough to the center of circulation, and latent heat given off from the thunderstorms can warm the air enough to create a fully tropical storm.
As a result, the strongest winds and rain become closer to the center and, with time, further intensification becomes possible.