Colin, the third named storm of this year's hurricane season regained strength Thursday, even as hurricane experts said they expect earlier predictions for an active season in the Atlantic basin to hold - but its impact along the Grand Strand is expected to be minimal.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration experts dropped the numbers in their forecast slightly, predicting that 14 to 20 named tropical storms will develop, including eight to 12 that reach hurricane strength. Four to six of those hurricanes are predicted to become major storms, which are Category 3 or higher with sustained winds reaching 111 mph.
Just before the season began in June, NOAA's predictions called for 14 to 23 named storms, including eight to 14 that become hurricanes and three to seven that could become major storms. If the forecast holds true, officials predict it will be the busiest season since 2005.
Colin, is the first storm to develop a track that could impact the Carolinas. The storm lost enough steam north of the Virgin Islands that it was downgraded to low-pressure system, but meteorologists said it regained tropical-storm status Thursday and said it has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone.
Meteorologists predict Colin will have very little to no direct impact on the Grand Strand area, but people heading to the beaches this weekend should keep an eye out for rip currents.
"It still remains to be seen how strong (Colin) gets," said Ron Steve, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C. "The only thing to be concerned about is a little bit more swelling into the beaches, which could cause issues with rip currents. It coincides with the new moon, which means tides will be a little bit stronger than any other time. As people head to the beaches this weekend, pay attention to any flags on the lifeguard stands, what lifeguards tell you, and swim near a lifeguard."
Whatever Colin's future, the season forecast means area residents should make plans now as to how they will deal with a tropical system threatening the coast, said Randy Webster, Horry County's Emergency Management director. The peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30, is typically through late August to October, Webster said.
"We're getting into the busy part of the season. It's still potentially a very busy season," Webster said. "If you look at the statistics we've only had 5 percent of the season in terms of forming storms so what we've been through is relatively normal. ... It doesn't matter how many storms have been predicted, you need to prepare for the one that will impact you."
Major storms such as 1989's Hurricane Hugo, 1999's Hurricane Floyd and 1954's Hurricane Hazel all formed and brought damage to the Grand Strand in September and October, Webster said.
NOAA officials released their updated seasonal outlook and predicted conditions will be favorable for tropical development throughout the remainder of the season, according to a news release.
Conditions for the active season are attributed to La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which provides conditions for tropical storm clouds to grow and organize in the Atlantic Ocean, according to NOAA officials.
Other climate factors pointing to an active hurricane season are warmer-than-average water in the Atlantic and Caribbean, according to weather experts.