Subtropical Storm Ana was upgraded to Tropical Storm Ana as she has reached maximum intensity while slowly making her way to the coastal Carolinas, according to an update from officials with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C.
Weather authorities sent an update on the storm about 5 a.m. Saturday, warning that the storm’s status had strengthened off the coast, but also said repeatedly that the storm was expe cted to weaken before making landfall midday Sunday. Those expectations had not changed by 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Officials said the storm was forecasted to move northwest at 3 mph over cooler shelf water as it approached the coast, which will lessen its intensity.
However, a tropical storm warning was issued for Brunswick, N.C., New Hanover, N.C., Pender, N.C., and Horry and Georgetown counties, according to the weather service.
A flood watch is in effect for the counties listed above, as well as Columbus County, from 8 p.m. Saturday through Sunday afternoon.
Warnings are also in place from areas around South Santee River to Surf City, N.C.
The storm’s track changed very little from previous forecasts, and it’s still expected to make landfall somewhere between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington, N.C. some time Sunday morning, likely closer to the Carolinas state line.
The first tropical force wind gusts were expected to arrive at coastal areas Saturday afternoon and continued into Sunday. Winds will be 30 to 40 mph and up to 50 mph along the coast. Gusty winds are expected to persist through Sunday morning. The storm’s sustained winds are near 60 mph.
Heavy rainfall is still expected with an accumulation of several inches, as well as the possibility of tornadoes through early Monday morning. Rivers are not expected to overflow their banks.
Out on the water, winds are reaching 35 to 40 knots and the seas could reach 15 feet but are closer to 7 to 10 feet near the shore. Forecasters warned that entrances to inlets may be hazardous as incoming waves and inlet currents may generate large, steep waves.
Despite being a slow-moving storm, Ana caused quite a bit of trouble across the Grand Strand over the weekend.
Coastal Carolina University had to make some changes to its commencement ceremony that was scheduled for Saturday at Brooks Stadium. Instead, the university held four separate ceremonies inside the HTC Center, two of them on Friday and two of them on Saturday.
Scheduled commencement speaker Michael J. Gerson, the former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, appeared only at the Saturday morning ceremony. University spokeswoman Martha Hunn said the deans of the other three colleges spoke at their respective ceremonies.
Elsewhere at CCU, the baseball game against Liberty was on again, off again as rain stopped and started and employees covered and uncovered the field with a tarp.
The game eventually was able to start around 2:30 p.m.
The Mayfest on Main festival in North Myrtle Beach had to adjust as well, moving the scheduled live entertainment inside the North Myrtle Beach High School auditorium, according to North Myrtle Beach Public Information Officer Pat Dowling. Other vendors and community stage events were canceled altogether.
The weather service says isolated power outages are possible and some limbs and weak trees may be blown down. Only minor structural damage is expected along the coastline.
High rip currents advisories are in place along the coastal Carolinas, and many beaches have been closed to swimmers since Thursday until further notice, including Horry County’s beaches.
North Myrtle Beach’s Dowling sent out a notice Saturday afternoon saying North Myrtle Beach’s beaches were closed to swimmers.
Officials suggest checking and preparing emergency kits and securing homes and businesses.
Caroline Evans contributed to this report.
Contact ELIZABETH TOWNSEND at 626-0217 or on Twitter @TSN_etownsend.