(Reuters) – A tropical storm that could unleash heavy rainfall and produce life-threatening flash flooding made landfall along the South Carolina coast on Wednesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.
Tropical Storm Bertha, which packed maximum sustained winds of 50 miles (80 km) per hour, is located about 20 miles (30 km) east of Charleston, South Carolina, the Miami-based forecaster said.
Bertha was expected to move inland toward North Carolina and southwest Virginia as it weakens to a tropical depression.
“The good news is that it is just 30 miles offshore and is going to move inland during the next few hours, so this is not going to get any stronger,” said Dennis Feltgen, a communications officer and meteorologist at the NHC.
The NHC issued a tropical storm warning for the areas along the South Carolina coast from Edisto Beach to South Santee River, and warned that Bertha could bring two to four inches of rain in much of the affected areas, potentially triggering dangerous flash flooding.
Experts had been tracking the system for a couple of days, Feltgen said, adding that it is not uncommon for storms to form close to the coastline and develop quickly.
U.S. forecasters expect an above-normal 13 to 19 named storms during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center said earlier this month.
NOAA forecasters estimate three to six major hurricanes packing winds of at least 111 miles (178 km) per hour may form. The last two years have seen an above-average number of named storms, with 18 last year and 15 in 2018.
Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York, Editing by Frank McGurty, Paul Simao and Bill Berkrot