Tropical Storm Chantal could turn toward Southeast coast

The 5 p.m. National Hurricane Center projection for Chantel Tuesday evening.

Chantal still might head our way: Another weather system moving over the United States is now expected to turn the tropical storm toward the Southeast coast by Sunday, forecasters said Tuesday.

The National Hurricane Center moved the forecast slightly west, leaving a range from the edge of North Carolina to lower Florida for potential landfall, with the track moving to the South Carolina-Georgia border.

Lixion Avila, senior hurricane specialist, noted that computer models had moved the tracks even farther west, which would bring a landfall farther south.

One way or another, the forecast for the Lowcountry calls for heavy rain and possible flooding through the weekend, starting Thursday.

But where the storm goes and how strong it is still anybody’s guess. Computer models diverged widely, predicting landfall from south of Miami to north of Wilmington, N.C.

“At this point we’re not going to say it’s not going to hit South Carolina,” said meteorologist Bob Bright with the National Weather Service, Charleston. “There’s a lot of uncertainty. The best thing to do is stay tuned, stay alert, stay cautious.”

A better read on the strength and direction of the storm probably won’t come until it crosses Hispaniola on Wednesday. Then it’s expected to track into the warm, cyclone-stirring waters in the Bahamas.

Hurricane center forecasters were calling for the rapidly moving storm to slow coming into the Bahamas, when it’s predicted to meet weak steering winds that make long-range forecasts of strength and direction more problematic.

Reach Bo Petersen at 937-5744, @bopete on twitter or Bo Petersen Reporting on Facebook.

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