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Two journalists killed in subtropical storm Alberto coverage

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018, 6:30 AM - Former subtropical storm Alberto is blamed for the deaths of two journalists in North Carolina on Monday. They died when a large tree fell on the SUV they were driving. Officials say heavy rainfall in the area also made for treacherous travel at the time. Alberto has since fizzled into a subtropical depression.

(SEE ALSO: Alberto makes landfall in Florida; flash flooding reported)

Monday's tragedy happened on Highway 176 near Tryon, North Carolina at around 2:30 p.m. TV anchor Mike McCormick and photojournalist Aaron Smeltzer, both from South Carolina's WYFF-TV station based in Greenville, were heading to a story and "covering the rain impact in that area" when they were killed, WYFF confirmed.

"Mike and Aaron were stellar journalists, dedicated to covering news in this market," John Humphries, WYFF 4 President and General Manager, said in a statement. "They were beloved members of our newsroom, and we will miss them tremendously. Today is a difficult day, and there will be many more ahead."

According to Tryon Fire Chief Geoffrey Tennant, the tree that fell on their SUV was about three feet in diameter and the "tree's root system failed" due to saturated grounds in the area. 

"I have never seen an event like this one," said Tennant, who has been in fire service in Polk County for 44 years, adding that both people died on scene. 


At its height, Alberto was blasting sustained winds of 65 mph (105 kph) with gusts that packed full hurricane punches of 75 mph (121 kph), said meteorologist David Roth of the National Weather Service. 

"It's slowly weakening and it's not regaining any strength," Roth said. "The chances of it spinning off tornadoes now has dropped to virtually zero."

Alberto's center made landfall near Panama City, Florida on Monday night, but the U.S. National Hurricane Center has since cancelled coastal warnings and watches. 

(Visit our COMPLETE GUIDE TO SUMMER 2018 for an in depth look at the Summer Forecast, tips to plan for it and much more)

Minor power outages were reported in north Florida, and the state's emergency response team started closing shelters on Monday, citing a "lack of public sheltering need." The NHC warns that the storm could still deliver heavy and potentially damaging rains with chances of 12 inches (300 mm) in some spots in north Florida and Alabama through Tuesday night.

Alberto is the first named storm of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane season, which officially begins on Friday, June 1. 


With files from Reuters

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