1st tropical storm of season forms

Alberto forms off coast of South Carolina


MIAMI – Tropical Storm Alberto churned off South Carolina's coastline Sunday, the first storm of its kind to form in a hurricane season that doesn't officially begin until June 1, forecasters said.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami reported that Alberto was about 100 miles  southeast of Charleston, S.C. at 5 a.m. Sunday. A tropical storm watch continues on that state's coast from Savannah River to the South Santee River.

TRACK THE STORM: JustWeather.com/hurricane
BLOG: George Winterling's Eye On The Storm

Alberto was driving maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, with higher gusts, but had changed little in strength during the early hours Sunday, the center said. But it warned coastal interests from Georgia to the North Carolina's Outer Banks to monitor Alberto's progress.

The hurricane center said a decrease in forward speed was expected through Sunday, with the storm forecast to turn toward the northeast sometime Monday. It added that little change in strength was expected over the next 48 hours.

Alberto was named a tropical storm Saturday upon forming in the Atlantic. Tropical storms occasionally occur before the official June 1 start of the hurricane season.

"We've been watching it off the coast," meteorologist and hurricane expert George Winterling said Saturday night. "It's been giving us this delightful weather for late May."

The NHC's statement early Sunday said the tropical storm watch means tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area at least for the ensuing 24 hours. It said tropical storm and dangerous surf conditions are possible.

Tropical storm-force winds extended outward up to 70 miles from the center.

Winterling says Alberto is going to sit off the coast of the Carolinas for about three days before heading out into the Atlantic.

National Weather Service meteorologist Sandy LaCorte said Alberto was expected to produce increased waves at beaches in the Carolinas. There also is a high risk of rip currents along the Outer Banks, and a moderate risk along the southeastern beaches and the entire South Carolina coast.

Channel 4 meteorologist Rebecca Barry says tides along northeast Florida beaches will also be higher than usual and a significant risk of rip currents.

The weather service said there would also be isolated and scattered rain showers along the coast of the Carolinas in coming days.

A forecast map from the hurricane center predicted that the storm would head toward the open sea off the mid-Atlantic region by midweek, even though it's difficult to accurately predict a storm's path days in advance.