Forecasters are watching the Atlantic Ocean today for signs of development from an area of disturbed weather that could become a tropical system later this week and possibly threaten the Carolinas by the weekend.
For now, the cluster of showers and thunderstorms has not organized, and upper-level winds are preventing it from forming a circulation. But forecasters say there are signs that it could drift into a more favorable area for developing in the next few days.
"We're certainly watching it," meteorologist Gene Funderburk, of the National Weather Service in Wilmington, said Wednesday morning.
The National Hurricane Center says the area is not tropical in nature but adds that there are indications that it could develop into a tropical system.
Some private forecasters say computer models predict the system will become a tropical storm and hurricane and either brush past the Carolinas and make landfall somewhere in the two states.
Lexion Avila, of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said Wednesday morning that the cluster of showers and storms, centered between Bermuda and Florida, "has changed little in organization during the past several hours."
Avila said a hurricane hunter plane might be sent into the system this afternoon.
Funderburk said forecasters at the weather service's Wilmington office are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
"Stay tuned," he advised Carolinas residents. "It's just too early to tell what will happen."
Funderburk's office so far is taking a conservative approach, predicting a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms this weekend along the coast.
Derek Ortt, a Miami-based private meteorologist who specializes in hurricane research, said Tuesday night that he expects the system to become a hurricane later this week and menace the East Coast.
In a computer bulletin board posting, Ortt said, "All residents of the U.S. East Coast, from the Carolinas to Maine, need to monitor this developing system."
And Larry Cosgrove, a meteorologist with WeatherAmerica, said computer models also paint a picture of a developing tropical storm or hurricane. Cosgrove said he favors a computer model that predicts the system will make landfall in South Carolina, affecting the Charlotte area as it moves inland.
Those private meteorologists say the same computer model that accurately predicted the track of hurricanes Dean and Felix in recent weeks is forecasting the Atlantic system will at least threaten the Carolinas and areas to the north along the East Coast.