Published: 2015-05-08 05:33:00
Updated: 2015-05-09 12:05:24
Posted May 8, 2015
Updated May 9, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — The National Hurricane Center has upgraded Ana to a tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph.
A tropical storm warning is in effect from from Cape Lookout, N.C., to South Santee River, S.C, while tropical storm watches remain in effect from the South Santee River to Edisto Beach in South Carolina.
The warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected within the next 24 hours. Ana is expected to bring heavy rain, gusty winds and rip currents to the coast.
At 11 a.m. Saturday, Ana was centered about 105 miles south of Wilmington and moving at a slow 3 mph.
"A turn toward the northwest with an increase in forward speed is expected today as Ana continues to approach the coastline, and then a turn to the north and northeast is expected near and after the time of landfall," the National Hurricane Center said. "On the forecast track, the center will be very near the coasts of South and North Carolina by Sunday morning."
Ana, which is the first named storm of 2015, formed nearly a month before the Atlantic Hurricane season officially kicks off.
"It's not terribly unusual to have a storm come up outside the official season," WRAL meteorologist Mike Moss said. "It doesn't mean it's going to be stronger than normal."
Rain is a concern because the system is moving so slow and won't clear out quickly. Ana is expected to deliver 2 to 4 inches of rain over the weekend, with some areas getting up to 6 inches.
Forecasters are also warning people to avoid dangerous surf and rip currents being kicked up by the storm. Some isolated flooding is also expected in some areas along the coast.
"Beach-goers are encouraged to use extreme caution this weekend," Warren Lee, director of New Hanover County Emergency Management 911 Communications, said in a statement. "With the elevated risk of rip currents, the best advice is to stay out of the water when the risk for rip currents in the highest."
People seemed to be heeding the warning early Saturday at Wrightsville Beach, where few folks were at the water's edge. Conditions were windy and the surf was rough.
Universities along the coasts of North Carolina and South Carolina were keeping an eye on Ana as they held graduation ceremonies.
Coastal Carolina University in Conway, S.C., moved its commencement Saturday from Brooks Stadium indoors to its student recreation center as part of a weather plan. The weather was overcast there as of mid-morning.
Officials in surrounding Horry County said they were in discussion with the National Weather Service and state officials but have not opened the county emergency management center.
UNC Wilmington was able to hold its commencement as planned indoors but urged students and family to keep an eye on the school's webpage as they make their travel plans. "If travel conditions change, graduates and their guests should make their own determination whether it is safe to travel," the school said in a statement on its website.
Officials with Carolina Beach State Park announced the park's campground would close early at 3 p.m. Saturday and remain closed through Sunday because of the storm. The park will stay open unless conditions deteriorate.
Locally, the storm will bring more clouds than rain to the Triangle, at least on Saturday, WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said. Temperatures will remain mild, with highs in the low 80s.
The storm's remnants are expected to pass through the eastern half of North Carolina on the first day of the work week.
"We could start to see our rain chances go up in the Triangle on Mother's Day, but Monday could end up being the wettest day in terms of what we see from Ana," Maze said. "I still don't think we're going to end up with a lot of heavy rain from this storm."
The Triangle is expected to see between a half an inch and inch of rain total from the system despite its sluggish journey up the coast and through the Carolinas. Areas in the west will see lighter totals, while areas closer to the coast will see more rain.
Once it pushes out, sunshine will return on Tuesday as highs remain in the mid-and upper-80s.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30. In the eastern Pacific, it begins May 15 and ends Nov. 30.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.