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Downpours, rough surf to whip Southeast coast as tropical disturbance remains offshore

By Courtney Spamer, AccuWeather meteorologist
May 03, 2019, 1:55:51 PM EDT

A tropical disturbance off the coast of Georgia remains unlikely to strengthen as it moves out to sea this weekend, but it will still bring downpours and rough surf to the Southeast coast.

As AccuWeather predicted earlier this week, the warm waters of the Gulf Stream are not quite enough to help this low strengthen.

"Through Saturday, a cold front moving through the East will draw moisture away from the tropical low and keep it disorganized," AccuWeather Meteorologist Steve Travis said.

The front will ultimately keep the system weak and steer it out to the middle of the Atlantic.

Even if the system were to develop, its center will remain well offshore. Despite this, higher waves and rough seas are anticipated for the highly trafficked water. Cruise ships as well as fishing and shipping boats in the region should take note.

Those at the beaches and venturing into the water through Saturday may also notice the rougher surf and stronger-than-normal rip currents. It's important to heed all warnings.

If caught in a rip current, swimmers are typically advised to swim parallel to the shore.


Before the system departs, it will draw some tropical moisture up to the southern Atlantic coast along with some heavier downpours.

"The heaviest rainfall and strongest thunderstorms will likely remain on the eastern side of the low, keeping much of the rain offshore," AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.

Still, enhanced rainfall will target parts of northeastern Florida to eastern North Carolina through Friday evening. Rainfall amounts could surpass 2 inches in some places.

The low and its tropical moisture have already unleashed heavy rainfall in parts of Florida. As of Friday morning, the Tampa area reported over 3 inches of rain since Wednesday, while the Fort Lauderdale region had 2.11 inches of rain.

Some thunderstorms could also produce strong wind gusts, which may further reduce the visibility and make it harder to see during a downpour. This could be especially treacherous for those driving through a thunderstorm.

Download the free AccuWeather app to be alerted of flood watches and warnings in your area.


The above image is visible satellite imagery of the tropical low off the coast of Georgia on the morning of Friday, May 3. (Photo/NOAA)

In communities in southern Georgia and South Carolina, rainfall is likely to be welcome.

The latest U.S. Drought monitor report, released on Thursday, highlights an area of slight to moderate drought across this region. Coastal communities under this drought distinction include Charleston and Hilton Head, South Carolina, as well as Savannah and Jekyll Island, Georgia.

While too much rain all at once could briefly cause flash flooding, particularly in urban areas and locations with poor drainage, overall the rain will likely help to ensure a lower fire threat during the spring and summer.

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This low began to approach the Bahamas and the United States in the last few days of April, more than a full month ahead of the official June 1 start of the Atlantic Ocean tropical season.

However, AccuWeather's annual hurricane outlook, released in early April, warned of the potential for some early tropical activity before the start of the season.

At the time, Kottlowski said those in locations like the Southeast coast and the Caribbean would need to exercise caution as early as April into May, due to warm waters in the region that could lead to an early season tropical threat.

Continue to check back with for the latest on tropical development potential, and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

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