When will the next tropical storm reach the Carolinas? One’s forming in the Caribbean

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A tropical storm was forming in the Caribbean Sea on Saturday and could reach the Carolinas by Thursday, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said in a 5 p.m. update.

“This system is expected to produce heavy rainfall and flash flooding over portions of Central America, western Cuba and the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico during the next couple of days,” the National Hurricane Center said in its update.

The system could become a tropical storm by Sunday night, and warnings are in effect for parts of western Cuba and Yucatan Peninsula, according to the hurricane center. It would be Tropical Storm Michael, the next name on the hurricane center’s list.

The center warned of potential “storm surge, rainfall, and wind impacts” in the northern Gulf Coast by mid-week, “although it is too soon to specify the exact location and magnitude of these impacts.”

The center’s storm tracking shows it in southern Alabama by 1 p.m. Wednesday before veering northeast into all of Georgia and South Carolina, eastern Tennessee and all but the eastern coastal end of North Carolina. That would come as good news to eastern North Carolina residents still dealing with the destruction caused by Hurricane Florence last month.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, the system was about 175 miles south of Cozumel, Mexico, with maximum sustained winds of 30 mph, the hurricane center reported. The system was moving northwest at 6 mph.

Western Cuba can expect 3 to 7 inches of rain, with 12 inches possible in some areas, according to the center.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067; @jmarusak