FORT MYERS, Fla. — The first tropical storm of the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season formed Tuesday and could affect the Carolinas as a hurricane by Thursday.
Tropical Depression One formed late Monday night as it crawled off of Florida's east coast at 2 mph.
The system remains nearly stationary but now is moving with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph, and tropical-storm-force winds extend 45 miles from its center.
It's located about 95 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral, according to the National Hurricane Center's 11 a.m. ET advisory.
A tropical storm watch has been issued for the coast of east-central Florida from Fort Pierce north to Flagler Beach and the storm is expected to produce 1 to 3 inches of rain in the watch area by late Tuesday.
When a small storm starts to churn the waters offshore, die-hard surfers often head to the beach. But forecasters are warning beach-goers of possible rip currents.
"There's fairly strong southward-flowing long shore current," said Bob Cristaldi, a National Weather Service forecaster in Melbourne, Fla. "And when you have strong winds with a system and it kind of generates some swell, you tend to get an increase in rip current activity."
Surf forecaster Bob Freeman of Cocoa Beach, Fla., said waves will be waist high with some bigger peaks but will be very rough. Wednesday will be safer because the storm system is moving away from the central Florida coast, but he still expects to see waist-high waves until Friday.
The depression is expected to turn northwestward, followed by a northern turn Wednesday, according to the hurricane center. By then, Tropical Storm Arthur is expected to pass east of northeastern Florida by Wednesday night and it's on track to near the Carolinas by Thursday night.
According to the forecast track from the National Hurricane Center, the storm will near the North Carolina outer banks around 2 a.m. Friday as a hurricane.
"Heavy rains of 2 to 4 inches" likely will affect the northwest Bahamas and eastern coast of Florida Tuesday through Wednesday," said Jeff Masters of Weather Underground.