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Fox News Weather Center

Southeast Coast on Alert for Potential Tropical Storm Ana in the Atlantic

A developing tropical system, which could soon acquire the name Ana, will affect part of the southern Atlantic coast of the United States with rain, wind and rough surf through the weekend.

A system that has been monitored by AccuWeather meteorologists since last week is likely to become the first depression or named tropical system of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season.

Hurricane hunter aircraft began flights into the storm on Thursday morning.

Rain arrived along the Carolina coast from the storm on Thursday and could continue into early next week. Winds and surf will increase from Virginia Beach, Virginia, to Daytona Beach, Florida, area through the weekend.

According to AccuWeather.com Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski, "While a powerful tropical system is not likely, there is a significant chance of a minimal tropical or subtropical system to form."

Regardless of whether or not the system is tropical or subtropical will make little difference on the impacts to the East Coast, from northern Florida to southeastern Virginia. A subtropical or hybrid storm has some warm, tropical features and some cool, non-tropical features.

Winds guiding the storm along are very weak. The center of the storm could wander close to the coast of the Carolinas and Georgia this weekend.

"While there remains some uncertainty about the track of the storm, the mostly likely areas for the storm to wander onshore is from northern South Carolina to southeastern North Carolina," Kottlowski said.

Since winds and rain extend well ahead of the storm, exactly where the center of circulation tracks will have little bearing on impacts.

Slow movement of the system will mean long-duration impacts. Rounds of drenching rain, gusty winds and rough seas will pester part of the coast, with the most significant conditions focusing on the Carolinas.

The risk to lives and property will be low for land areas, due to the expected minimal strength of the storm. However, there are some risks for people remaining on land and significant danger for those venturing in the surf or heading to sea.

"The slow movement of the storm will bring several straight days of periods of rain to portions of the Carolinas and perhaps southeastern Georgia, with the heaviest rain falling during the afternoon and evening hours," Kottlowski said.

Rainfall averaging 2-4 inches in the coastal Carolinas will raise the risk of flooding on roadways and low-lying areas. Persistent onshore winds will also bring the potential for coastal flooding in portions of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia, particularly at times of high tide.

The constant bombardment of rough surf will lead to beach erosion focusing on North Carolina. The rough surf will cause frequent and strong rip currents, which will pose dangers to bathers.

While winds are not likely to become strong enough to cause widespread damage, there could be downed tree limbs, especially where locally gusty thunderstorms occur. A couple of brief tornadoes and waterspouts could be spawned by the storm. If and where these occur, damage could be more severe.

Winds will reach average speed of 20-30 mph with gusts frequenting 40 mph along the Carolina and southeastern Virginia coasts for a time this weekend. Gusts can be significantly higher in thunderstorms.

Rough seas and squalls associated with the storm will make for dangerous conditions for small craft outside of protected coastal waters. Cruise ships will want to avoid the area of rough seas, which will extend from off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay to near the northern part of the Bahamas and eastern Florida.

"While people should stay out of the water along the Carolina and Georgia coasts in this situation, this will be a storm for people to think of what they need to do for hurricane preparation for the upcoming season," Kottlowski said.

Direct impact from the storm is not likely to reach the Northeast or penetrate hundreds of miles inland in the South.

The storm will help to strengthen an area of high pressure that will pump building warmth and sunshine in much of the East.

The atmospheric roadblock will keep rounds of severe weather focused on the Plains this week, and the threat could ramp up even more over the weekend.

AccuWeather.com Chief Long-Range Meteorologist Paul Pastelok is monitoring the Atlantic Basin for additional development later in May.

"It is possible a tropical system slowly takes shape in the Gulf of Mexico during the third week of May along the tail end of a front with high pressure to the north," Pastelok said.

AccuWeather has released its summer forecast for the U.S. and will release its Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast for 2015 on May 13.