Weakened Alberto heading to South Carolina
Heavy rain, tornadoes a concern as storm moves north
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STEINHATCHEE, Florida (CNN) -- Tropical Storm Alberto blew across south Georgia on Tuesday evening with winds of 40 mph as it made its way to South Carolina, leaving heavy rains in its wake but only a portion of the havoc that coastal residents had expected.
Barely maintaining its tropical storm status -- the threshold for which is sustained winds of 39 mph -- Alberto was moving northeast toward Alma, Georgia, at about 14 mph as of 8 p.m., according to the National Hurricane Center. Alma is about 100 miles north of Jacksonville, Florida.
As it closed within 110 miles of South Carolina's southern border, the hurricane center canceled a tropical storm warning for the Atlantic coast from Flagler Beach, Florida, to Altamaha Sound, Georgia. A warning for Florida's Gulf Coast had been canceled earlier in the day.
A warning remained in effect from Altamaha Sound to South Santee River, South Carolina, however.
The storm made landfall around midday Tuesday near Adams Beach, Florida, about 50 miles south of Tallahassee. By 2 p.m., top winds had dropped to 40 mph, the hurricane center said.
The storm was expected to weaken to a tropical depression later Tuesday, but the threat of heavy rain and tornadoes remains a concern, forecasters said.
Shannon Holcombe, who has lived in Crystal River, about 160 miles southeast of Tallahassee, for 13 years, said the wind and rain posed little threat. But, she said, storm surges caused some problems Tuesday, especially for her neighbors whose homes are not elevated.
"After high tide, normally you expect it to go back out. It didn't go back out," Holcombe said.
About 45 minutes after the second high tide on Tuesday, water that was covering her dock moved 150 feet inland to her home, Holcombe said. The surge forced two armadillos to take refuge on her neighbor's front deck.
"It's receded a little bit. It's no longer in my garage," she said Tuesday evening, "but I'm still an island."
Though Alberto hasn't wrought the destruction that hurricanes Katrina or Rita delivered to the Gulf Coast last year, Holcombe said it was still a frightening debut to the 2006 hurricane season.
"It's scary because it's only the second week in June," she said.
State meteorologist Ben Nelson said that Alberto drove a 4- to 5-foot storm surge ashore in Levy and Dixie counties, 120 miles southeast of Tallahassee, in the state's marshy Big Bend region. The storm was expected to dump 6 inches of rain inland.
"The storm surge is something that we're monitoring," Nelson said. "That will be slow to subside." (Watch as the storm arrives in Cedar Key, Florida -- :43)
Power was out for an estimated 11,000 electricity customers across 32 counties after the storm, the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee reported. (Shelter locations)
Nelson warned Floridians to stay indoors and to be especially careful of downed power lines and rough surf.
"There's no need for anyone to lose their life to a tropical storm like this," Nelson said.
Gov. Jeb Bush issued a mandatory evacuation order for the low-lying counties of Dixie, Levy, Taylor, Citrus, Franklin and Wakulla, which are in the storm's path. (Full story)
Officials credited the heavy rain with helping to extinguish wildfires that plagued Florida for more than six weeks.
"The rainfall's been largely beneficial, because we've had breaks in between the rain bands," said Florida state meteorologist Ben Nelson.
At 8 a.m. Tuesday, 168 wildfires were burning across the state. Of those, three were declared officially out an hour later, said Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson.
"Hopefully, this rainfall is going to put out a lot of fires from central Florida up through northeast Florida," Bronson said.
Tropical force winds extended up to 145 miles from the center of the storm, mainly over water, the hurricane center said. (Projected path)
Alberto could dump 4 to 8 inches of rain over North Florida and South Georgia, a hurricane center advisory said.
Isolated areas could see up to 10 inches of rain, the advisory added. (Watch as one Florida town worries about its levee -- 2:34)
South Carolina, the coastal plains of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia can expect 3 to 5 inches of rain through Wednesday, the center said.
Isolated tornadoes are also possible Tuesday over parts of central and northern Florida, southern Georgia and southern South Carolina.
By Thursday morning, a tracking map places the storm in the Atlantic off the U.S. East Coast.
CNN's Sumi Das and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.
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