Update: SC in store for a tropical drenching today

UPDATE, 11 a.m. COLUMBIA, SC Emergency management officials in the state Thursday ramped up preparations for Tropical Storm Andrea, whose remnants are expected to dump loads of rain on an already soaked state.

Andrea is expected to weaken below tropical storm strength quickly after making landfall in northern Florida today, but the saturated clouds associated with the low pressure system should produce heavy rains as they zip over South Carolina late Thursday and Friday.

The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control warned managers of small dams Thursday to check the dam structures and lower lake water levels if possible. Dam managers also should warn the owners of dams downstream if they are releasing extra water from their lakes, said John Poole, a dam safety official with DHEC.

The S.C. Emergency Management Division hadn’t gone into full-scale hurricane operations Thursday, but state and county emergency managers are watching the weather reports closely, according to the state agency.

The National Weather Service issued a tropical storm warning for the state’s coastal counties. With the center of the system expected to be inland, storm surge shouldn’t be a major problem, but high waves and flash flooding are likely along the coast. Maximum sustained winds around 40 mph could knock limbs from trees but pose only minor threats to structures.

Almost the entire state is under a flood watch. Many lakes and streams are still running high from a wet May, and thunderstorms in a front that moved through this week have further saturated the ground. The 2-4 inches expected from Andrea could push many streams to flood stage.

Isolated, small tornadoes also often are associated with tropical systems. The state already has had four confirmed tornadoes this month in Anderson, Orangeburg and Dorchester counties.

Earlier story:  Winds associated with the low pressure system over the Gulf of Mexico hit the 39 mph threshold for it to be named Tropical Storm Andrea on Wednesday, and it’s expected to bring heavy rains to much of South Carolina starting Thursday.

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch for much of the Lowcountry and Midlands, with 2-4 inches of rainfall expected Thursday and Friday, with the heaviest rain on Friday. Coming on the heels of several drenchings in the past few days, the Andrea deluge is expected to push many waterways to flood stage and cause flash floods in poor draining urban areas.

Sustained winds aren't expected to be cause much damage, but forecasters warn that tornadoes often are associated with these weak tropical systems.

Video: Andrea gains strength