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CAPE HATTERAS, N.C. (AP) _ Subtropical Storm Gustav headed toward the Carolina coast Monday with wind and strong surf, and authorities warned coastal residents to prepare for possible flooding.

``This will be no worse than a bad nor'easter for residents along the coast. But they need to be aware that it's coming and prepare for it,'' said Tom Ditt, a spokesman for the state Division of Emergency Management in Raleigh.

Because the summer holiday season is over, Ditt said, officials were less concerned about preparing evacuation routes than they were about warning residents to tie down lawn furniture.

A tropical storm warning was in effect from Cape Fear, N.C., northward to Currituck Beach, N.C., the National Hurricane Center said.

High surf and dangerous rip currents were likely Monday all along the Eastern Seaboard from New Jersey to the central Florida coast, said forecaster Richard Pasch.

Unlike the more common tropical storms, which are formed by warm air, subtropical storms have a combination of warm air in the lower half of the weather system and cold air on top, said hurricane specialist Stacy Stewart.

Subtropical storms are not common, with typically only one or two forming every year, Stewart said.

Gustav could become a full tropical storm by landfall, the Hurricane Center said.

At 8 a.m., Gustav was about 255 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., the hurricane center said. It was expected to continue moving northwest at 12 mph.

Gustav had sustained wind of 45 mph, and it was expected to strengthen within the next 24 hours, Pasch said.

North Carolina can expect some beach erosion and flooding in low-lying areas, Ditt said.

The coastal highway along the Outer Banks could be awash, Ditt said. ``It's the biggest concern we have right now because it can get cut off in many areas,'' he said.

Gustav is the seventh named storm of the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

So far, none of the named storms this season have become hurricanes. Tropical storms become hurricanes if their sustained wind hits 74 mph.

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On the Net:

National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/