FIRST ALERT: Tropical depression off NC coast expected to strengthen; Beryl continues westward


A tropical depression off the North Carolina coast is expected to strengthen into a tropical storm by Sunday, but is expected to move north and away from the Carolinas.

At 5 a.m. Saturday, the center of Tropical Depression Three was located near latitude 33.2 North, longitude 74.6 West. It’s about 145 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras.

The depression is moving toward the north-northwest near 5 mph. The depression is expected to meander off the coasts of the Carolinas for the next several days. By Tuesday, a faster northeastward motion is expected to begin.

“It’s really not going to affect us here in the Lowcountry,” Live 5 Meteorologist Stephanie Sine said. “It’s expected to move away from us.”

Maximum sustained winds are near 30 mph with higher gusts. Gradual strengthening is forecast during the next few days, and the depression is expected to become a tropical storm by Sunday.

An Air Force reconnaissance plane is scheduled to investigate the cyclone later Saturday. The estimated minimum central pressure is 1015 mb (29.98 inches).

According to the National Hurricane Service, the system is expected to make a slow northward motion overnight into Saturday, then meander well off the southeast U.S. coastline on Sunday and Monday.

Beryl slightly less organized Saturday morning

Meanwhile, Hurricane Beryl has weakened a bit as it moves westward in the Atlantic and could be temporarily downgraded to a tropical storm.

A hurricane watch is in effect for Dominica. The government of France has issued a Tropical Storm Watch for Barbados, St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, and St. Barthelemy.

At 8 a.m. Saturday, the center of Hurricane Beryl was located near latitude 11.7 North, longitude 50.3 West. Beryl is moving toward the west-northwest near 14 mph. A west-northwestward motion with some increase in forward speed is expected during the next few days.

On the forecast track, the center of Beryl will approach the Lesser Antilles over the weekend and cross the island chain late Sunday or Monday.

Maximum sustained winds are estimated to be near 75 mph with higher gusts, but recent satellite images suggest that Beryl is becoming less organized. If this trend continues, then Beryl may be downgraded to a tropical storm later Saturday morning. Because of Beryl’s small size, short-term changes in intensity, up or down, could continue to occur over the next day or two, and Beryl could still be near hurricane strength as it nears the Lesser Antilles.

Weakening is expected once Beryl reaches the eastern Caribbean Sea on Monday, but the system may not degenerate into an open trough until it reaches the vicinity of Hispaniola and the central Caribbean Sea on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Beryl is a small hurricane. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 10 miles from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles.

The estimated minimum central pressure is 995 mb (29.39 inches).

Live 5 Chief Meteorologist Bill Walsh said Beryl is not going to affect the weekend, and looks like, at this point, not a factor for the Lowcountry’s future.

“It looks like it’s going to eventually run into some trouble when it approaches the Windward Islands where some wind shear will weaken the storm,” Walsh said.

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A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area.

A Tropical Storm Watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area.

Beryl’s upgrade to a Category 1 storm made it the first hurricane of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane season.

Storms named Beryl have made landfall in the United States three different times over the years, in 1988, 1994 and 2012.

“The tropics have become increasingly active as we’ve flipped the calendar over to July,” Meteorologist Joey Sovine said.

The first tropical storm of the season, Alberto, formed on May 25 on the edge of the Yucatan Peninsula on the western end of the Caribbean. The system made landfall in the Gulf but its remnants created downpours over the Memorial Day weekend.

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