A weather system in the Gulf of Mexico will likely develop into a tropical storm and could bring much needed rain to the Carolinas, forecasters say.
The system, which could be named Tropical Storm Nestor Thursday or Friday, is expected to bring high winds, rain and rough surf to the Gulf Coast Friday or Saturday before tracking across the southeast toward the Atlantic, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“Locally heavy rainfall is also possible across portions of the southeast U.S. late this week and this weekend,” the Hurricane Center said, giving the system a 90% chance of forming into a tropical storm before it makes landfall along the Gulf Coast.
The Hurricane Center issued a tropical storm warning for much of the Florida Panhandle, the Alabama coast and parts of Louisiana Thursday afternoon.
Forecasters expect the storm to move over the Panhandle by 7 a.m. Saturday and be over eastern North Carolina by 7 a.m. Sunday, the Hurricane Center said.
“The disturbance is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 2 to 4 inches this weekend from the central Gulf Coast and northern and central Florida to the eastern Carolinas, with isolated maximum amounts of 5 inches,” according to the Hurricane Center.
The storm had sustained winds near 35 mph with higher gusts as of midday Thursday, the Hurricane Center said. A tropical depression becomes a tropical storm when sustained winds hit 39 mph.
The storm, called 96L for now, continues to organize and strengthen in the Gulf as it moves toward the coast, according to Mark Malsick with the South Carolina State Climate Office.
“Potential Tropical Cyclone 16 is expected to become a tropical or subtropical storm later today or tonight. The main impact to central NC will be a period of rain Saturday evening into early Sunday. Forecast amounts are around 0.5-1”, but exact totals are still uncertain,” The National Weather Service in Raleigh said Thursday.
In eastern North Carolina and northeast South Carolina, the NWS said the storm “is expected to move quickly through our area Saturday afternoon through Sunday as a hybrid extratropical system. 2-4” of rain, with isolated 5”, forecasted for our area with gusty winds.”
“Offshore South Carolina, 96L should produce coastal 25-35 mph winds with gusts to 45. 96L will drop 1-3 inches of rain along the coast with similar amounts falling inland along and east of the I-20 corridor. Northern Midlands and the Upstate should easily see 1-2 inches on deck by Monday morning,” Malsick said Thursday.
Much of the South has been in a drought, with some parts of Georgia and South Carolina experiencing extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
“Rain. It’s a good thing,” Malsick said, echoing a line from country singer Luke Bryan’s song “Rain Is A Good Thing.”
Forecasters say they may send a Hurricane Hunter plane out to investigate the system Thursday.
If the system becomes a tropical storm, it will be the 14th named storm of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June through the end of November.