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No Fay trouble at Carolinas beaches

There's good news for anyone at the Carolinas beaches or planning to go there in the next several days.

Tropical Storm Fay is not expected to stir up any big troubles for beachgoers – especially from the Litchfield-Pawleys Island area northward.

And Fay is not expected to create deadly rip tides or large surf, as offshore hurricanes often do along the Carolinas coast.

The National Hurricane Center forecasts that Fay will move slowly northeast across Florida today and emerge off the state's Atlantic coast Wednesday. It could strengthen to near hurricane force before curving back westward onto the coast sometime Thursday. That is forecast to happen between Brunswick, Ga., and Jacksonville. The system then is forecast to move westward across southern Georgia and into southern Alabama.

What does that mean for Carolinas beachgoers?

Not much, forecasters say.

“We will see a very gradual increase in our winds, but it's all relative,” said Stephen Keebler, of the National Weather Service office in Wilmington. “Compared to other storm situations, these winds won't be that big of a problem.”

Gradually this week, the Carolinas beaches will be in a sort of meteorological tunnel – at the northern edge of the counter-clockwise wind flow around Tropical Storm Fay, and at the southern edge of the clockwise flow around a high pressure system expected to develop and intensify over New Jersey. That situation is called a pressure gradient, and it often produces strong winds.

Forecasters don't expect the gradient to be very strong this time, however. Winds on Thursday could reach 15 to 20 mph from the east. Keebler said that will create relatively large waves – but not the pounding surf that is caused by offshore storm systems.

“We won't have the long-term waves that create swells,” Keebler said. “And that means we don't expect big problems with rip tides, either.”

Meteorologists, however, often a dose of caution. Should Fay intensify more than expected, and if it should move farther northward then predicted, then the storm's impact could be much greater on the Carolinas coast.