MYRTLE BEACH -- A storm system off the southern S.C. coast is showing signs of strengthening this afternoon, and could become a tropical depression today, according to National Weather Service forecasters.
The Weather Service's 2 p.m. update on the storm reports increasing thunderstorm activity from the low-pressure system, as well as increasingly favorable conditions for further strengthening. The bulletin upgrades the storm's chance of becoming a tropical system to greater than 50 percent, with better chances the longer it stays over water.
"It's just something to keep an eye on right now," said forecaster John Quagliariello of the National Weather Service's Charleston office. "At this point, it's still trying to get itself organized."
The storm system is moving slowly up the Atlantic off the Carolina coast, and poses the greatest threat to S.C. today, Quagliariello said. Current models show some movement off the coast after today, but Quagliariello said that the storm's early development can rapidly change its predicted track.
"I think our greatest impact is the potential for heavy rainfall as some squalls move in," Quagliariello said.
Along with the rain, strong winds and rip currents are another risk associated with a coastal tropical system. Horry, Georgetown and Brunswick counties are all under a Weather Service warning of moderate risk of rip currents.
An Air Force reconnaissance plane may investigate the storm Saturday to measure its strength, the Weather Service said.
Horry County officials are monitoring the storm, said Randy Webster, the county's emergency management director.
Storms have turned into hurricanes in a short period of time, Webster said, so if that happened, officials would not have much time to evacuate the area.
"It'll be a tough one because of that very issue, it's right here on top of us," Webster said. "Who knows what it's going to do."
In Georgetown County, emergency officials were preparing their emergency operations center just in case the storm gets worse, said Sam Hodge, the emergency manager for the county. He said it was too early to tell whether the storm would pose a significant threat.