By JAY REEVES, Associated Press
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — The soggy remnants of Alberto moved toward the nation’s interior Tuesday, leaving scattered flooding and downed trees in the wake of the year’s first named tropical storm.
More than 25,000 power outages were reported in Alabama, many caused by trees rooted in soggy soil falling across utility lines.
But while forecasters said the subtropical depression could dump as much as 6 inches (15 centimeters) of rain inland, few major problems were reported so far.
“We’ve had a lot of rain, but we got lucky. It was a constant rain but not a heavy rain,” said Regina Myers, emergency management director in Walker County northwest of Birmingham.
Subtropical storm Alberto rolled ashore Monday afternoon in the Florida Panhandle and then weakened overnight to a depression. Beachcombers had returned to the white sands of the Northern Gulf by Tuesday morning, but forecasters still warned of dangerous currents.
In Cuba, flooding damaged an oil refinery and caused crude oil to spill into Cienfuegos Bay as the remnants of Alberto continued to drench the island in heavy rain.
State-owned TV showed authorities using barriers Tuesday to try to contain the spill from the Cienfuegos refinery in central Cuba about 150 miles southeast of Havana.
U.S. forecasters said rain could still cause dangerous flash floods in the coming days in northern Alabama and large areas of Georgia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.
In North Carolina, a television news anchor and a photojournalist were killed Monday while covering the weather, when a tree became uprooted from rain-soaked ground and toppled onto their SUV, authorities said.
WYFF-TV of Greenville, South Carolina, said news anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer were killed.
“Two journalists working to keep the public informed about this storm have tragically lost their lives, and we mourn with their families, friends and colleagues,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement.
Alberto was more of a rainstorm than a wind threat, but the National Weather Service said at least one tornado had been confirmed.
The weather service said its meteorologists confirmed a weak tornado with maximum winds of 85 mph (147 kph) hit an area around Cameron, South Carolina, on Monday afternoon. No one was hurt.
Associated Press writers Jennifer Kay in Miami Beach, Florida, Kate Brumback in Atlanta and Jeffrey S. Collins in Columbia, South Carolina, contributed to this report.