First tropical storm of the season forms off South Carolina

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
Alberto, the first tropical storm of the season, churns near South Carolina. reports the first tropical storm of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season has taken shape off the South Carolina coastline.

An area of low pressure centered about 110 miles southeast of Charleston, S.C., developed into Tropical Storm Alberto Saturday afternoon, according to the Hurricane Center.

Alberto is a low-end tropical storm with maximum sustained winds near 50 mph.

Alberto started Saturday as a non-tropical area of low pressure, but quickly acquired tropical characteristics as it churned over the warm waters of the southwestern Atlantic. warned that such "home-grown" storms, tropical systems that develop near the coast of the United States, were a possibility when the official 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season forecast was released earlier this year.

Alberto is expected to meander off the South Carolina coast the rest of this weekend before turning northeastward into the open waters of the Atlantic early next week, grazing the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the process.

Alberto could strengthen slightly during this time, but will never approach or achieve hurricane status.

The track of Alberto puts coastal North Carolina at risk for flooding downpours, gusty winds and rough surf.

Alberto should bypass the Northeast. However, a turn to more unsettled weather after a fantastic weekend is still in the forecast.

The development of Alberto is proof that tropical storms and hurricanes are not confined to the dates of the Atlantic hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 to November 30.

Tropical Depression One from late May 2009 was the last organized tropical feature to form prior to hurricane season.

Alberto is the earliest tropical storm to form in the Atlantic since Ana became a tropical storm during the evening hours of April 20, 2003. Subtropical Storm Andrea took shape during the second week of May in 2007, but never became fully tropical.