Just a few days into the hurricane season, Tropical Storm Andrea is forecast to deluge Maryland and much of the Atlantic coast Friday, prompting flash flood warnings across the Baltimore region.
The storm was not expected to pack anything close to the intensity of Hurricane Sandy seven months earlier, but threatened to inundate low-lying areas, rivers and streams. It brought tornadoes to Florida on Thursday and was expected to dump nearly a foot of rain in some areas of the Southeast.
Emergency managers cautioned residents to clear storm drains and avoid driving through deep water.
A flash flood watch for Maryland counties west of the Chesapeake Bay, including the entire Baltimore area, was in effect for Friday and cautioned of 2-4 inches of rain possible throughout the day and into early Saturday. Some isolated areas could see as much as 6 inches of rain, according to the watch.
The storm made landfall Thursday afternoon along the Florida panhandle. National Hurricane Center forecasters expected it to track inland over the Carolinas, likely weakening before it reaches Maryland but still packing significant moisture and gusty winds.
Hurricane center forecasters expected the storm to lose its tropical characteristics by late Friday or early Saturday, while it is passing over Maryland. That would mean the storm would behave more like a nor'easter storm, still packing significant rainfall and some winds, but with less intensity.
On Thursday afternoon, tropical storm warnings extended from Florida to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on the Atlantic coast, also including ocean waters off of Ocean City and Assateague Island.
The storm's outer bands buffeted Florida's west coast on Thursday and at least four tornadoes touched down throughout the state, including one that ripped a roof off a restaurant in Gulfport. Another damaged several houses in Palm Beach County and sent a tree crashing through the roof of a house, injuring a woman inside.
The storm is the first of the young hurricane season, which officially began June 1. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting the tropics to be active over the next six months, predicting 13 to 20 named tropical storms, seven to 11 of them reaching hurricane status and three to six of those becoming major hurricanes.
Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. officials said they are monitoring the storm and will ensure appropriate staffing levels. Significant power outages are not expected, with winds of 10 to 20 mph forecast Friday.
But the rainy start to the weekend may cause some minor disruptions.
Organizers of The Gathering, a series of outdoor events that draw together local food trucks, canceled plans for Friday night in Canton because of the forecast, a measure they seldom take. They rescheduled it for July 19 at the Clarence H. Du Burns Arena.
"I've done them in the past month or two with a chance of some rain or drizzle and we still get a decent amount of people out," said Damian Bohager, who expected 4,000 people at the event. "With heavy rain, it just doesn't work."
The storm threatened to keep the Orioles from arriving on time for a series against the Tampa Bay Rays that starts Friday, but team officials said they expected to be able to fly to Florida on Thursday night as scheduled.
On Saturday, Andrea was expected to merge with a frontal system and morph into a Nor'easter as it moved over the northeastern U.S. coast and Nova Scotia. That could bring another chance of rain showers Saturday afternoon.