North Carolina may feel the effects of a tropical storm on its coast this week for the first time in over a year. Tropical Depression Eight is forecast to strengthen over the next 24 hours and brush the Outer Banks with heavy rain, wind and high surf through Wednesday morning.
The last time North Carolina faced a tropical system was Ana in May 2015.
Tropical Depression Eight formed in the Atlantic on Sunday afternoon. On Monday morning, it was about 200 miles southeast of Hatteras, N.C. Given the relatively warm ocean temperatures and the very moist environment, the National Hurricane Center forecasts Eight to strengthen modestly over the next 24 to 36 hours, though this storm is not expected to reach hurricane status.
By Wednesday, the storm should get pushed out to sea by an incoming cold front.
Thousands of vacationers are flocking to the Outer Banks for Labor Day weekend, but evacuations are not anticipated.
“Based on what we’re seeing now, we don’t think we’re going to have too terrible of a weekend,” Drew Pearson, the emergency manager for Dare County, N.C., told The Washington Post. “Rip currents are dangerous and people should be mindful of the higher surf this week, but hopefully they’ll have an enjoyable time in the Outer Banks this weekend.”
Dare County comprises the Outer Banks from Duck to Hatteras.
A tropical storm watch is in effect for Oregon Inlet to Cape Lookout. If it does strengthen, Eight could be named Tropical Storm Hermine or Ian.
Tropical Depression Eight impacts
The most significant impact to the North Carolina coast is a high risk of rip currents and high waves. Not only is Tropical Depression Eight closing in, but Hurricane Gaston — a Category 3 — is churning up waves well east of Bermuda, and Tropical Depression Nine, which is in the southern Gulf of Mexico, is expected pass North Carolina well off the East Coast later this week. Combined, these storms will make swimming dangerous over the next few days. A rip current statement has been issued for not only the Outer Banks but the entire East Coast from North Carolina to Florida.
Periodically heavy rain is expected to begin Monday and last through Tuesday night. One to three inches is likely across coastal North Carolina, though some areas could see up to five inches in heavier bands of rain.
Winds could become gusty over the next 36 hours, though the storm is not expected to strengthen beyond a sustained wind of 45 mph. For the Outer Banks, that means gusts could reach 50 mph. Mariners should use extreme caution, and the National Weather Service is suggesting they remain in port through the duration of the tropical storm.