By Alex Sosnowski, Expert Meterologist for AccuWeather.com
AccuWeather reports wind, seas and surf will build in advance of what could eventually become the first tropical system of 2015 along the southeastern Atlantic coast of the United States late this week.
A lingering area of showers and thunderstorms east of Florida is forecast to slowly develop tropical traits into the weekend.
According to AccuWeather.com Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski, “The storm can take on some tropical characteristics as it drifts northward due to sufficiently warm waters and the potential for diminishing winds aloft.”
The system has a chance to become the first depression or named tropical system of the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, even though it may not be fully tropical but rather a subtropical storm. The first name on the list of 2015 storms is Ana.
A subtropical or hybrid storm has some warm, tropical features and some cool, non-tropical features.
“Regardless of tropical development or not, winds and seas will gradually build along the coast from northeastern Florida to southeastern Virginia, well ahead of the center of the system toward the end of the week and into the weekend,” Kottlowski said.
Rough surf was already leading to strong rip currents along southeastern Florida beaches. These conditions will continue at midweek, but will shift northward later in the week.
The most significant impact from the budding system will begin on Friday and continue this weekend, when rain and thunderstorms can occur along with gusty winds, rough surf and minor beach erosion.
The swath that could be affected by adverse beach conditions stretch from Daytona Beach, Florida, to Virginia Beach, Virginia. However, the track of the storm will determine which areas may be hit harder on particular days.
According to AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Henry Margusity, “For people along the Southeastern coast, this storm’s weather conditions will be similar to a developing modest nor’easter.”
Factoring in dry air limiting the intensity of the storm, winds could reach an average speed of 20-30 mph with gusts frequenting 40 mph along the Carolina and southeastern Virginia coasts for a time this weekend.
While the risk to lives and property for those on land is low, building seas will be a concern for boaters and bathers. Cruise, fishing and shipping interests from the southeastern U.S. to the Bahamas will want to monitor the progress of the storm. Strong rip currents for bathers and sudden squalls for fishing and small craft will be a concern.
The center of the storm could wander close to the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas this weekend. However, even if the center were to remain offshore, downpours, gusty winds and seas will reach the coast due to the forecast broadening structure of the storm.
Weak steering winds could cause the system to meander over land, or perhaps hover just offshore into early next week.
“If the storm stalls near or over land, enough rain could fall to cause flooding,” Kottlowski said.
A small number of tornadoes could be spawned if the system were to develop tropical characteristics and make landfall.
Forecasting the intensity of preseason storms can be especially challenging due to marginal water temperatures and a typically more hostile atmospheric environment, when compared to mid-season storms.
In this case, we have a system forecast to develop in a near-summerlike weather pattern, which could give the storm a bit of an edge for development as well as some strengthening, Kottlowski said.
“How far north the storm develops may determine whether or not it becomes tropical in nature,” Kottlowski said.
The farther north it develops, the cooler water temperatures are, which will be a strike against a tropical system.
Regardless of tropical development or not, there will be no significant added effect from the phase of the moon this weekend.
“The full moon was this past Sunday and typically the greatest effect from the moon on tides is within a couple of days of the full and new moon,” Kottlowski said.
The new moon is not until May 18.