A storm churning in waters off the eastern United States has strengthened into a tropical storm and is expected to reach the North Carolina coast Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm occurred off the coasts of South Carolina and North Carolina Thursday evening with sustained winds reaching 40 mph. A storm surge watch was in effect, with surges between 36 inches and 5 feet forecast for parts of North Carolina, the center reported.
As of Thursday evening, the storm was located about 570 kilometers southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, and about 635 kilometers south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and was moving north at a speed of 6 km/h, the center said.
Although the system had reached tropical storm strength, it had not yet been given a name and the center was still calling it Potential Tropical Cyclone 16 as of Thursday evening. The hurricane center defines a potential tropical cyclone as a disturbance presenting a threat of tropical storm or hurricane within 48 hours.
Meteorologist Maria Torres, public affairs manager at the Miami-based center, said residents on the Atlantic coast should monitor the storm’s progress, gather supplies and prepare for its arrival.
“This will bring tropical storm force winds and storm surge as well as high winds to the East Coast through the weekend, primarily from the Southeast to the mid-Atlantic states,” a- she told the Associated Press.
The tropical storm warning was in effect from Cape Fear, North Carolina, to Fenwick Island, Delaware. It also includes the Chesapeake Bay south of North Beach, Tidal Potomac south of Cobb Island, and the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds. Storm surge warnings were in effect for some areas of the region, the hurricane center said.
Emergency management officials in Virginia warned of heavy rain, high winds and flooding in the coming days.
The Virginia Department of Emergency Management said on social media Thursday that officials were coordinating with local weather service offices to monitor the development of the system off the coast. Authorities called on residents to prepare for the storm and its impacts on the region throughout the weekend.
North Carolina’s emergency department warned that strong swells from distant Hurricane Nigel would also reach the state’s coast on Thursday, increasing the risk of rip currents. The combination of these swells and the low pressure system could lead to additional ocean overtopping, beach erosion and coastal flooding.
The hurricane center said a storm surge of between 0.6 and 1.2 meters was expected.
A storm surge warning was in effect from Duck, North Carolina to Chincoteague, Virginia.
Meanwhile, Hurricane Nigel was heading toward colder waters of the North Atlantic as a Category 1 storm. The hurricane center said Nigel was expected to become “extratropical” and was centered about 700 miles (1,125 kilometers) to the south. northwest of the Azores.
Nigel’s maximum sustained winds reported in the center’s last update Thursday evening were 120 km/h. There were no coastal watches or warnings associated with Nigel.