A storm in the Atlantic was on the verge of becoming a tropical cyclone Thursday as it closed on the Lesser Antilles, apparently headed toward Southeastern U.S. waters next week. National Hurricane Center forecasters predicted the storm could be tropical by Friday.

"Regardless of development, winds of gale force are likely to spread across portions of the Lesser Antilles beginning early Friday," said senior hurricane specialist Richard Pasch in an update. The Antilles are a chain of islands separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea between Puerto Rico and South America.

Computer model forecasts varied from the storm dissipating over the Bahamas to it turning out to the open ocean after passing Puerto Rico this weekend, possibly as a hurricane. The Thursday afternoon model runs continued to suggest it wouldn't make landfall in South Carolina, but the Southeast remains in the arc of its potential paths.

A weather system coming off the United States is expected to draw in the tropical system early next week and carry it away from the mainland, said Jeff Masters, of Weather Underground.

But the track forecast for the storm next week is "nebulous at best," said Mark Malsick, S.C. Climate Office severe weather liaison.

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