Tropical Storm Alberto debuts off Carolinas several days before hurricane season's official start

Published May 20, 2012

RALEIGH, N.C. — The first tropical storm of the hurricane season formed Saturday off the coast of South Carolina with top winds of 60 mph, but it wasn't threatening land.

Forecasters said early Saturday evening that Tropical Storm Alberto was centered about 130 miles east of Charleston, S.C.

No coastal watches or warnings were in effect, but forecasters said they may have to issue one later for the Carolina coast. The Miami-based National Hurricane Center says there have been no hazards affecting land so far, and the tropical-strength winds weren't reaching shore. Forecasters said Saturday evening that a ship near the center of Alberto measured winds about 15 mph stronger than originally reported.

It was moving about 3 mph (6 kph) to the southwest.

National Weather Service meteorologist Sandy LaCorte in Wilmington said the system will continue moving to the southwest before reversing course and heading northeast over the next several days. She said the center of the storm is not expected to get close to the Carolinas' coast.

LaCorte said Alberto will produce increased waves at beaches in the Carolinas. There is a high risk of rip currents along North Carolina's Outer Banks, and a moderate risk along the southeastern beaches and the entire South Carolina coast. Winds will gust to around 25 mph.

The weather service said there will be isolated and scattered rain showers along the coast of the Carolinas into early next week.

A forecast map by the hurricane center predicts that the storm will drift toward the open sea off the Mid-Atlantic region by midweek, but it's difficult to accurately predict a storm's path days in advance.

The official start to hurricane season is June 1, but tropical storms often occur before then.