Forecast calls for heavy rain, high winds

As one tropical system exits, another could be arriving as the Labor Day holiday weekend is set to begin.

The National Hurricane Center expects a tropical storm to impact the area Friday and into early Saturday morning.

The system was still developing as of Wednesday morning in the Gulf of Mexico. Forecasts from the hurricane center show the system making landfall as a tropical storm somewhere north of Tampa, Fla., crossing land and emerging into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the Georgia coast on Friday. Exactly where and when the storm gets into the Atlantic would determine its strength and proximity to the North Carolina coast and either increase or reduce its impact on the area, according to the National Weather Service in Newport.

The hurricane center puts the center of the tropical storm, which would have the name Hermine, just south of Cape Lookout at 1 a.m. on Saturday in its forecast. Tropical storms carry winds of 40 to 74 mph.

The weather service warns eastern North Carolina residents of the possibility of 3 to 7 inches of rain and wind gusts to 70 mph or higher, especially along the coast. Rain is expected Thursday night into Friday, with tropical storm force winds of 40 to 70 mph expected in the area by 6 p.m. Friday.

The storm comes on the heels of a tropical depression that approached the North Carolina coast earlier this week before curving back out into the sea. The storm brought scattered showers to the area but caused no problems.

The approaching system is forecasted to be stronger and closer to the coast, likely producing greater impacts. Minor flooding, especially of low-lying areas, is possible, and some coastal flooding may occur, though the storm is expected to be moving relatively quick through the area.

Residents are advised to check their yards and homes for anything loose such as plastic lawn furniture, bird feeders or trash cans that could get blown through the air in strong winds as well as to clear any debris from storm drains. Scattered power outages may be possible with the system depending on its strength and track.

Once the storm clears the coast, pleasant weather is expected through the holiday weekend, though the possibility of rip currents is expected to be high along the beaches. Skies should be clearing Saturday with a high temperature of 83 and lower humidity levels, according to the weather service. Sunday and Monday should both be sunny with highs in the low to middle 80s.

The approaching storm has already prompted some cancellations and postponements. Havelock High has moved its scheduled varsity football game against New Hanover from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Thursday at Havelock High. The Downtown Morehead City Revitalization Association has postponed its scheduled Alive at Five concert from Friday until Sept. 9.

As of 11 a.m. Wednesday, no tropical storm warnings or watches had been issued for the North Carolina coast, but those were expected to be issued later after the press deadline. There was also no word on any possible school delays, cancellations or early releases.