Hurricane threat for the Carolinas?

Forecasters are watching the Atlantic Ocean today for signs of developmentfrom an area of disturbed weather that could become a tropical system laterthis week and possibly threaten the Carolinas by the weekend.

For now, the cluster of showers and thunderstorms has not organized, andupper-level winds are preventing it from forming a circulation. Butforecasters say there are signs that it could drift into a more favorablearea for developing in the next few days.

"We're certainly watching it," meteorologist Gene Funderburk, of theNational Weather Service in Wilmington, said Wednesday morning.

The National Hurricane Center says the area is not tropical in nature butadds that there are indications that it could develop into a tropicalsystem.

Some private forecasters say computer models predict the system will becomea tropical storm and hurricane and either brush past the Carolinas and makelandfall somewhere in the two states.

Lexion Avila, of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, said Wednesdaymorning that the cluster of showers and storms, centered between Bermuda andFlorida, "has changed little in organization during the past several hours."

Avila said a hurricane hunter plane might be sent into the system thisafternoon.

Funderburk said forecasters at the weather service's Wilmington office aretaking a wait-and-see attitude.

"Stay tuned," he advised Carolinas residents. "It's just too early to tellwhat will happen."

Funderburk's office so far is taking a conservative approach, predicting a30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms this weekend along the coast.

Derek Ortt, a Miami-based private meteorologist who specializes in hurricaneresearch, said Tuesday night that he expects the system to become ahurricane 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 developingsystem."

And Larry Cosgrove, a meteorologist with WeatherAmerica, said computermodels also paint a picture of a developing tropical storm or hurricane.Cosgrove said he favors a computer model that predicts the system will makelandfall in South Carolina, affecting the Charlotte area as it moves inland.

Those private meteorologists say the same computer model that accuratelypredicted the track of hurricanes Dean and Felix in recent weeks isforecasting the Atlantic system will at least threaten the Carolinas andareas to the north along the East Coast.

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