COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) _ The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season developed off the South Carolina coast Sunday as forecasters predicted Tropical Storm Alex would make landfall in North Carolina.

Alex's center was about 90 miles south-southeast of Charleston, S.C., at 8 p.m. Maximum winds were blowing at 40 mph, forecasters said.

The storm had become better organized during the afternoon, prompting the National Hurricane Center to extend the tropical storm warning from Cape Hatteras, N.C., to the South Santee River, north of Charleston.

A watch was extended from Cape Hatteras to Oregon Inlet, N.C.

Alex started as a tropical depression Saturday. It churned toward South Carolina on Sunday at about 7 mph before becoming stationary and gathering strength, forecasters said.

Although the storm was close to shore and conditions were expected to worsen, Alex had little impact Sunday: Winds in Charleston and Myrtle Beach rarely gusted above 15 mph and Myrtle Beach had only .08 inches of rain.

``About all it is here is breezy,'' said Dan St. Jean, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service's Charleston office.

The 2004 hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, has started slowly. Only two seasons on record have a first depression forming later than July 31, but forecasters caution that has no bearing overall hurricane activity.