The National Hurricane Center has upgraded an area of disturbed weather southeast of Charleston, S.C., to a tropical depression, the second tropical cyclone of the 2016 season, and issued a tropical storm warning for the South Carolina coast.
However, even if the depression becomes Tropical Storm Bonnie later tonight or Saturday morning, the system is forecast to be a slow mover that will bring mostly a threat of rain and an increased risk of rip currents through the holiday weekend and into next week.
At 5 p.m. this afternoon, the Hurricane Center reported that the depression was 435 miles southeast of Charleston with maximum sustained winds of 35 mph — just four miles short of tropical storm status — and was moving northwest at 13 mph. The same general motion is expected to continue for the next 24 hours with a slowdown in forward speed by Saturday night as the system nears the South Carolina coast.
The tropical storm warning is in effect from the Savannah River north to Little River Inlet in South Carolina.
According to the National Weather Service office in Newport/Morehead City, N.C., the latest models continue in pretty good agreement that the weak tropical system will move slowly toward the coast south of the area, then meander north/northeastward along the coast into early next week.
Eastern North Carolina, local forecasters say, can expect enhanced chances of rain and a higher threat of rip currents through mid-week.
“Steering flow is very weak,” local forecasters said this afternoon, “and the low will likely evolve into an open wave/trough feature by early next week.”
Regardless of whether or not the system gets named, the NWS said, there will be a “rich and deep southerly flow” that will bring the threat of periods of heavy rain showers with localized flooding. According to the forecast, there is a 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms from Saturday afternoon through Sunday night and a 40 percent chance on Memorial Day.
Temperatures are forecast to be uncomfortably warm and humid with highs along the Outer Banks about 80 and lows in the low 70s.
There will also be a chance for tropical cyclone-induced tornadoes later in the weekend, depending on where the system moves.
Winds are expected to remain from the southeast at 10 to 15 knots with waves forecast to be possibly up to 6 feet over the outer central and southern waters, subsiding to 3 to 4 feet early to midweek.
A footnote for those of you who may have forgotten: Hurricane Alex was the first tropical cyclone of 2016. It became a named storm unusually early — on Jan. 13 — and was the first tropical system in January since 1938.
To keep up with the latest local forecast during the holiday weekend, go to the local Weather Service website at www.weather.gov/mhx/.