Tropical System Likely to Brew in Atlantic, Bring Rain to Southeast Coast

By By Alex Sosnowski, senior meteorologist.
May 09, 2015, 12:38:58 AM EDT

Wind, seas and surf will build ahead of what is likely to become the first tropical system of 2015 along the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States this week.

A weak storm system has formed east of Florida and is forecast to develop tropical traits over the next couple of days.

According to Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski, "The storm will take on some tropical characteristics as it drifts northward due to sufficiently warm waters and light winds aloft."

The system has a chance to become the first depression or named tropical system of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, even though it may not be fully tropical but rather a subtropical storm. The first name on the list of 2015 storms is Ana.


A subtropical or hybrid storm has some warm, tropical features and some cool, non-tropical features.

"While a powerful tropical system is not likely, there is a significant chance of a minimal tropical or subtropical system to form," Kottlowski said.

"Regardless of the extent of tropical development, winds and seas will gradually build along the coast from northeastern Florida to southeastern Virginia, well ahead of the center of the system late in the week and into the weekend."


Rough surf has already produced strong rip currents along southeastern Florida beaches. These conditions will continue at midweek but will shift northward into Friday and Saturday.

The most significant impact from the budding system will occur Friday and continue this weekend, when rain and thunderstorms can occur along with gusty winds, rough surf and minor beach erosion. Some showers and storms can reach the Georgia and Carolina coast as early as Thursday.

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"While there remains some uncertainty about the track of the storm, the mostly likely areas for the storm to wander onshore is from northern South Carolina to southeastern North Carolina during Friday night or Saturday," Kottlowski said.


The swath that could be affected by adverse beach conditions stretches from Daytona Beach, Florida, to Virginia Beach, Virginia. However, the track of the storm will determine which areas may be hit harder on particular days.

According to Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity, "For people along the Southeastern coast, this storm's weather conditions will be similar to a developing modest nor'easter."

Factoring in dry air limiting the intensity of the storm, winds could reach an average speed of 20-30 mph with gusts frequenting 40 mph along the Carolina and southeastern Virginia coasts for a time this weekend.

People along the Southeast coast of the U.S. should not let their guard down.

The greatest concern for those on land will be heavy rainfall.

"The slow movement of the storm will bring three straight days of periods of rain to portions of the Carolinas and perhaps southeastern Georgia, with the heaviest rain falling during the afternoon and evening hours," Kottlowski said.

Enough rain will fall to cause incidents of flooding on roadways and low lying areas.

"A general 2 inches of rain will fall with locally 4 or more inches of rain possible," Kottlowski said.

A couple of brief tornadoes could be produced.

While the risk to lives and property for those on land is low, provided common sense is observed, building seas will be a concern for boaters and bathers. Cruise, fishing and shipping interests from the southeastern U.S. to the Bahamas will want to monitor the progress of the storm. Strong rip currents for bathers and sudden squalls for fishing and small craft will be a concern.

The center of the storm could wander close to the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas this weekend. However, even if the center were to remain offshore, downpours, gusty winds and seas will reach the coast due to the forecast broadening structure of the storm.

Weak steering winds could cause the system to meander over land or perhaps hover just offshore into early next week.


Forecasting the intensity of preseason storms can be especially challenging due to marginal water temperatures and a typically more hostile atmospheric environment, when compared to mid-season storms.

In this case, we have a system forecast to develop in a near-summerlike weather pattern, which could give the storm a bit of an edge for development as well as some strengthening, Kottlowski said.

Regardless of tropical development or not, there will be no significant added effect from the phase of the moon this weekend.

"The full moon was this past Sunday and typically the greatest effect from the moon on tides is within a couple of days of the full and new moon," Kottlowski said.

The new moon is not until May 18.

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