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Alberto Downgraded To Depression, Falling Tree Kills Two Journalists Reporting On Storm

A television news anchor and a photojournalist have died when a tree fell on their vehicle as they reported on severe weather on the fringes of the huge system

Forecasters have downgraded Alberto to a subtropical depression but say a flood threat persists as the huge system continues to dump heavy rains.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami says Alberto, formerly a subtropical storm, weakened Monday evening just hours after making landfall in the Florida Panhandle. As of the 11 p.m. EDT advisory, Alberto was located about 50 miles (80 kilometers) west-northwest of Dothan, Alabama. Its top sustained winds are now down to about 35 mph (55 kph).

Forecasters say the center of the depression is moving to the north near 12 mph (19 kph). The storm is expected to pick up speed in coming hours and move over Alabama later in the night and early Tuesday as it spreads storms around the South.

Forecasters say rains from the far-flung system could produce flash flooding in the hours ahead.

Authorities so far haven’t attributed any deaths or injuries directly to Subtropical Storm Alberto. But in North Carolina, a television news anchor and a photojournalist have died when a tree fell on their vehicle as they reported on severe weather on the fringes of the huge system.

The North Carolina Highway Patrol says a large tree toppled Monday on the TV news vehicle near Tryon, North Carolina. Station WYFF-TV of Greenville, South Carolina, says one of its news anchors, Mike McCormick, and photojournalist, Aaron Smeltzer, were killed.

McCormick and Smeltzer had just interviewed Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant as they reported on fringe storms in North Carolina, hundreds of miles (kilometers) from the center of Alberto. Tennant says minutes later he got a call “and it was them.”

Tennant didn’t directly blame Alberto for the deaths, noting the tree became loose in ground already saturated by a week rain.

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