Potential next problem storm for SC? Florida looks to send Hilton Head its troubles

Three weeks have passed since Idalia swiped the Lowcountry as a tropical storm and since then, the area has dodged other threats swirling in the Atlantic. But on Wednesday, meteorologists were watching two systems, one of which that will unequivocally impact South Carolina’s coast, a local weather official said.

While Hurricane Nigel will come “nowhere near” the state, Severe Weather Liaison Frank Strait said, ocean swells from the storm could kick up the surf and increase the risk of rip currents beginning Thursday.

A tropical wave located off the west coast of Africa has environmental conditions that look as though it could form into a tropical depression late this week as it moves westward across the eastern and central tropical Atlantic between 10 and 15 mph, according to the National Weather Service’s Charleston Office. The chance of formation within the next week is 70%.

“Models seem to agree on eventual development of this feature but not on where it goes,” Strait said. “The longer it takes to get its act together, the further west it gets. It seems more likely to develop and move north out of the tropics early like Nigel did, but we’ll watch it.”

Seven-day graphical tropical weather outlook on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023.
Seven-day graphical tropical weather outlook on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023.

However, a stationary front near Florida is the one to watch.

Meteorologists predict a storm will form east of Florida on Thursday and move north. While the brewing system “looks to be” non-tropical, Strait said it may become semi or fully tropical as it spins over waters that are 3 to 4 degrees warmer than normal.

“Whether it’s a non-tropical gale or a tropical storm, it will affect SC,” Strait wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.

While it’s unclear how strong or how far inland the storm will become, the state’s coast will “at minimum” get dangerous surf, high rip current risks and hazardous marine conditions, Frank said Wednesday.

The NWS Charleston Office said those impacts could be seen for portions of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic United States late this week and into this weekend. On Wednesday, formation chance of the system was 30% within the next seven days.

Strait shared one silver lining among the looming uncertainties: astronomical tides are going to be low this weekend.

Unlike the clash between the supermoon and Tropical Storm Idalia that made tides rise even higher and exacerbated flooding in the Lowcountry.

Earlier this week Strait reminded that September’s weather pattern is particularly precarious and is “ripe for sneak attacks” from tropical cyclones.

“The weather pattern for the rest of September will feature cold fronts pushing through the southeastern states and becoming stationary over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico and southwestern Atlantic Ocean,” Strait said Monday. “Also, we’re coming to the time of year when weak low-pressure areas forming over Central America can spawn tropical cyclones; those can also spin up fast because waters are always very warm over the western Caribbean Sea.”

If the systems formed, the next two storm names on the list are Ophelia and Philippe.