Tropical Storm Bonnie Headed For The South Carolina Coast
HILTON HEAD ISLAND — Tropical Storm Bonnie, the first of the year to threaten the United States, is expected to reach the South Carolina coast on Saturday evening or early Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said after upgrading the system from a tropical depression.
Bonnie, coming four days before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season, was on course to make landfall along the South Carolina coastline between the Savannah River, near Hilton Head Island, and the Little River Inlet.
It was packing sustained winds of up to near 40 miles per hour (65 kph), with higher gusts, the center said at 5 p.m. EDT on its website.
The system will bring heavy rainfall, life-threatening surf and rip currents to the Atlantic beaches during the long Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of the summer vacation season.
Tropical storms are defined as a cyclonic weather systems packing winds with sustained surface speeds ranging from 39 to 73 miles per hour (63 to 117 kilometers per hour).
The center of the system was about 120 miles (195 km) south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina, as of 5 p.m., the federal agency reported.
The storm was moving northwest at 10 mph (17 kph), the center said, adding its forward speed is expected to slow as it nears the coast.
The formation of Bonnie marks the second such weather system of 2016, following one that grew into Hurricane Alex in the far eastern Atlantic in January, according to the center.
Alex, a rare wintertime storm that threatened the Azores island group far off the coast of Portugal, never came near the United States.
The weather system is expected to produce one to three inches (2.5 to 7.6 cm) of rainfall, with maximum totals of 5 inches (12.7 cm) from eastern South Carolina to southeastern North Carolina, the NHC added.
Tidal storm surge flooding of one to two feet (30 to 60 cm) above ground level also is possible in the area until Sunday morning. Isolated tornadoes are also possible.
U.S. meteorologists have predicted an increase in the number of named storms this hurricane season after the number was below average during the past three years.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms in the upcoming hurricane season. By comparison, 11 named storms occurred in 2015, including four hurricanes, of which two were
major, according to federal data.