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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Alberto weakens to a tropical depression over Mexico, with at least 4 dead

Floodwater surrounds homes following Tropical Storm Alberto in Surfside Beach, Texas, on Thursday, June 20, 2024. The large-scale storm brought heavy rain and coastal flooding to parts of eastern Mexico and southern Texas. (Callaghan O’Hare/The New York Times)

By Judson Jones, Christine Hauser, Edgar Sandoval and Emiliano Rodríguez Mega

Alberto, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, made landfall on the northeastern coast of Mexico as a tropical storm early Thursday, unleashing heavy rain, flooding and gusty winds, forecasters said. At least four people died in events related to the storm, which later weakened into a depression, officials and forecasters said.

The deaths were all in Nuevo León, where a man received an electrical shock while trying to make repairs to his house, Gov. Samuel García said in a televised interview Thursday.

A teenager was trapped by currents in a river and drowned after trying to recover a ball, Erik Cavazos, the director of civil protection in Nuevo León, told reporters earlier. Two children were electrocuted crossing a pond that was in contact with a live cable, he said.

The El Universal newspaper, citing local emergency authorities, reported that the child who drowned was 16 and the two others were 12.

The National Weather Service warned Thursday that Alberto remained a large storm, and that “life-threatening flooding and mudslides” were likely in the higher elevations of northeastern Mexico. Rainfall totals of 20 inches were possible. Maximum sustained winds of 45 mph later eased to 35 mph, the center said.

Alberto’s impact extended into southern Texas with heavy rains.

In Texas, tides surged beneath elevated houses in some coastal cities since Wednesday morning, including in Surfside Beach, which is about 40 miles southwest of Galveston. The city closed its beach earlier this week and warned visitors to stay away.

By early Thursday, a tropical storm warning for more than 2 million people from San Luis Pass southward to the mouth of the Rio Grande was discontinued.

Here are key things to know about the storm

— Alberto made landfall on the northeast coast of Mexico early Thursday, but the wind and rain extend far from the center of the storm.

— Rain was already beginning to diminish across southern Texas, while more was expected to fall across northeastern Mexico.

— Mudslides are also a concern in the hills of Mexico.

— The tropical storm weakened Thursday morning to a depression. It was expected to dissipate over Mexico by later Thursday, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said.

Rivers were rising in Mexico.

Mexico’s meteorological service had forecast torrential rains for the northern states of Nuevo León, Coahuila, Tamaulipas and San Luis Potosí for Thursday. Government workers set up shelters, and electricians were deployed to areas at risk of power outages.

The flow of two of the rivers that run through Nuevo León’s capital, Monterrey, had increased considerably in a matter of hours. By Thursday morning, civil protection authorities in Monterrey had reported traffic accidents and vehicles stranded on flooded streets.

Meteorologists said the storm was expected to lose strength throughout the day as it moved farther inland.

Still, for some states in Mexico, the storm’s arrival was a welcome respite amid a water crisis and scorching heat waves.

“We are waiting for these rains, which are going to be very beneficial,” Luis Gerardo González, the Tamaulipas state civil protection coordinator, said in a radio interview Wednesday.

A disaster declaration was issued in Texas

Before the storm, Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas announced a severe-weather disaster declaration for 51 counties.

Alberto drenched areas near Rockport, a coastal city 30 miles north of Corpus Christi with up to 7 inches of rain, and prompted some counties near the border with Mexico to issue tornado warnings. No major injuries were reported Thursday. Scattered showers were still expected Thursday and the rest of the week, weather officials said.

The most jarring images of vehicles submerged under water and streets overrun by currents came from Surfside Beach, a retirement community of about 750 residents that sees its population grow to about 10,000 during its high summer season.

As of Thursday morning, many of the streets on the west end of the island were measuring about 3 feet of water, said Greg Bisson, the mayor of Surfside Beach. Most of the homes were spared major damage because the city has long required new dwellings to be built 14 feet above sea level.

“When you live on a barrier island, this is what you have to deal with,” Bisson said. “You know, we’re surrounded by water.”

Bisson said his town was bracing for a bigger impact. “Even though it was 400 miles away, I mean, look what it inflicted on us,” he said.

This hurricane season is expected to be busy

Forecasters have warned that the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season could be much more active than usual.

In late May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted 17-25 named storms this year, an “above-normal” number and a prediction in line with more than a dozen forecasts earlier in the year from experts at universities, private companies and government agencies. Hurricane seasons produce 14 named storms, on average.

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