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Tropical Storm Ana weakened slightly before making landfall in South Carolina on Sunday morning, sending pounding surf crashing against Atlantic beaches as it prepared to bluster inland, forecasters said.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Ana made landfall between Myrtle Beach and North Myrtle Beach at 6:00 a.m. ET Sunday morning, and packed top sustained winds of 45 mph.
Ana, a surprisingly early tropical storm that emerged ahead of the official June 1 start of the Atlantic hurricane season, was moving to the north-northwest at a plodding pace of about 5 mph.
The storm was kicking up 11- to 12-foot seas — as recorded by offshore buoys — and the dangerous surf was a worrisome aspect of the storm, according to hurricane specialist Dave Roberts.
"It's about rough surf. People need to stay off the beach for sure," Roberts told The Associated Press from the hurricane center.
Although the Atlantic season doesn't formally start until June 1, early surprise storms are not all that unusual every few years or so, the center said. There were two May tropical storms in 2012, for instance.
A tropical storm warning, meanwhile, remained in effect from the South Santee River in South Carolina to Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Forecasters said the storm, once it hit cooler waters, would weaken further and head inland while breaking up.
The North Myrtle Beach Department of Public Safety announced Saturday that no swimming in the ocean was allowed because of the weather. In New Hanover County, North Carolina, authorities cautioned people who were thinking about a weekend beach outing.
"Beachgoers are encouraged to use extreme caution this weekend," said Warren Lee, Director of New Hanover County Emergency Management. "With the elevated risk of rip currents, the best advice is to stay out of the water when the risk for rip currents is the highest and comply with any advisories given by lifeguards."
Ana marked the earliest subtropical or tropical storm to form in the Atlantic since another storm named Ana emerged in 2003, the hurricane center said earlier on Twitter. The Atlantic season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, a period experts consider the most likely for tropical activity in the ocean basin.