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Tropical Storm Alberto weakens off South Carolina coast

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Tropical Storm Alberto weakened slightly off the South Carolina coast on Sunday, a day after becoming an early first storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season.

The storm was not expected to approach landfall on the Carolinas’ coast, but it prompted a tropical storm watch and forecasters warned that it could produce high winds, heavy surf, rip currents and scattered rain across the region.

At 11 a.m. Eastern, the National Hurricane Center said Alberto was about 90 miles (145 km) south of Charleston. It has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (72 kph).

It’s currently moving west-southwest at 6 mph (10 kph), but forecasters expect it to turn northeast sometime Monday.

A tropical storm watch was in effect for the South Carolina coast from the Savannah River to the South Santee River.

The hurricane center said the storm was expected to slow down through Sunday, then begin turning northeast and heading farther out to sea sometime Monday.

Alberto was named a tropical storm Saturday upon forming in the Atlantic. Tropical storms occasionally occur before the official June 1 start of the hurricane season.

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