Ophelia weakens, but could threaten East Coast in coming days

| 9/13/2005

Tropical Storm Ophelia maintained a relatively safe distance from the Carolinas Tuesday afternoon, but forecasters cautioned that the storm could intensify and move inland in the next few days.

According to the National Weather Service, a hurricane warning – meaning hurricane conditions are expected within the next 24 hours – remains in effect from the South Santee River in South Carolina to Lookout, NC. 

A hurricane watch – meaning hurricane conditions are possible within the next 36 hours – and a tropical storm warning – meaning tropical storm conditions are expected within the next 24 hours – remain in effect north of Cape Lookout to the Oregon inlet, including the Pamlico Sound, and from south of the South Santee River to Edisto Beach, SC.

At 11 a.m. EDT Tuesday, Sept. 13, Ophelia was located about 120 miles east-southeast of Charleston , SC , and about 130 miles south of Wilmington , NC . Tropical storm-force winds extended outward from the center up to 160 miles from the center.

Ophelia was moving slowly toward the north-northwest at 3 mph, and that general motion was forecast to continue throughout Tuesday. A gradual turn toward the north is expected Tuesday evening or on Wednesday; however, some erratic motion is still possible.

Maximum sustained winds are near 70 mph with higher gusts. Some slow strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours, and Ophelia could become a hurricane again.

Storm surge flooding of 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels, along with large and dangerous battering waves, are possible. A storm surge of 6 to 8 feet is possible at the heads of bays and rivers.

Ophelia is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 6 to 10 inches over far northeastern South Carolina and eastern North Carolina , with possible isolated maximum rainfall amounts of 15 inches over eastern North Carolina .

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of emergency Sunday, Sept. 11. The Associated Press reported the governor had sent 200 National Guard soldiers to staging centers and ordered a mandatory evacuation of non-residents from tourist areas along the flood-prone coastline.