Bertha track

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Tropical Storm Bertha surprised the South Carolina coast Wednesday, forming, making landfall within two hours and was downgraded before sundown, bringing a poor beach day of rain and gusty winds, but no major problems.

Forecasters expected the bad weather, but didn't predict it to organize so quickly and become the second named storm before the official start of this year's Atlantic hurricane season.

Bertha was named around 8 a.m. Wednesday and was onshore east of Charleston by 9:30 a.m. The state Department of Natural Resources called it “a sunrise surprise.” Six hours after the tropical storm formed, the National Hurricane Center downgraded it to a depression well inland. They said Bertha was no longer a tropical depression at 5 p.m. and stopped issuing advisories.

Bertha moved rapidly inland, spreading up to 4 inches of rain into parts of North Carolina and Virginia. Flash flood watches were issued as the region has already seen plenty of rain in May.

Steady rain fell Wednesday in a corridor from the Triad to parts of southwestern Virginia, according to the National Weather Service in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Smith Reynolds Airport had received about 1.61 inches of rain between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Wednesday, the weather service in Raleigh reported. Forsyth County might receive another inch of rain through this morning.

Duke Energy reported Wednesday night that 1,144 of its customers in Forsyth County were without power.

While quick moving, the storm has serious potential for flash flooding because of last week’s heavy rain.

“Area creeks and streams are running super high, and the soil is supersaturated,” said Meteorologist Brandon Locklear with the weather service.

Today's forecast calls for a 50% chance of rain in Forsyth County with a high temperature near 82 degrees. Tonight's low temperature will be around 68 degrees with a 60% of rain.

Earlier this month, Tropical Storm Arthur brought rain to North Carolina before moving out to sea. It was the sixth straight year that a named storm has developed before June 1, the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

Journal reporters Lee O. Sanderlin and John Hinton contributed to this story.

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