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Tropical Storm Cristobal to Form, Impact US Eastern Beaches

While a tropical low is expected to brew into Tropical Storm Cristobal this weekend, the East Coast of the United States is being monitored for future impacts -- even if the storm remains well offshore.

The low has been struggling to develop tropically since emerging from the coast of Africa due to dusty air, disruptive wind shear and, more recently, interaction with the Caribbean Islands.

As conditions become more conducive, AccuWeather.com Tropical Weather Expert Dan Kottlowski expects the low to become Tropical Storm Cristobal this weekend.

Regardless of when the low strengthens, torrential downpours and gusty squalls will continue to spread across the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hispaniola and to the Turks and Caicos Islands through Saturday.

Similar impacts will reach eastern Cuba on Saturday, while lingering downpours over the Windward and Leeward islands will diminish by Friday night.

"The downpours will raise the risk of flash flooding, road washouts and mudslides but can also ease dry conditions on some of the islands," stated AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

Track of Future Tropical Storm Cristobal

Beyond Saturday, there are several pieces of the puzzle that AccuWeather.com meteorologists are monitoring which would influence the future track of the low and future impacts to the U.S. East Coast.

According to Kottlowski, latest indications point toward what should be Cristobal passing over or near the Turks and Caicos Islands on Saturday, east of the Bahamas through the remainder of the weekend and then in between Bermuda and the eastern U.S. early next week.

Downpours and gusty squalls will continue to accompany the low along its path with damaging winds and rough surf becoming an increasing concern as Cristobal takes shape.

"There is opportunity for the evolving Cristobal to become a very strong tropical storm and perhaps even intensify into a hurricane as it passes just east of the Carolinas early next week," continued Kottlowski.

The low has been guided westward by the large Atlantic ridge of high pressure this week. As the jet stream drops southward along the U.S. East Coast, the low is expected to get pulled to the north and then northeast -- in similar fashion to Bertha from earlier this summer.

"If the [jet stream] were to be weaker and the high stronger, this system could move on a track much closer to the U.S.," added Kottlowski.

"However, these southward dips in the jet stream into the tropics have been fairly persistent this year and we feel this particular situation will be similar."

"Even if a tropical storm or hurricane was to stay east of the East Coast of the U.S., a strong system would generate swells that propagate outward that could reach the shoreline in the form of rough surf and strong rip currents during the last week of August," warned Sosnowski.

Such danger could create hazards for beachgoers trying to get in one last vacation before summer comes to a close.

While the above scenario for Cristobal is what the latest indications are pointing to, it is not the only scenario.

"There is an outside chance that the low ends up stalling off the East Coast next week, which could lead to it getting drawn back westward toward the coast," stated AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity.

This scenario would unfold if the low misses getting totally picked up by the jet stream and then guided back to the west around the backside of the ridge that is currently baking the central and southern U.S.

Future Cristobal could also take a sharper turn to the northeast over the Atlantic and take aim at Bermuda.

As the window of possibilities is narrowed down over the next few days -- well ahead of the storm, interests from the Caribbean to the Bahamas, Bermuda and the East Coast of the U.S. should closely monitor the situation.

Kottlowski added that the low should turn to the north and northeast before making a run at the Gulf of Mexico.