After taunting the Carolinas for days, Ophelia once again reached
hurricane status as it began its gradual assault on the lower East Coast.
Although not expected to even remotely equal the intensity of Hurricane
Katrina two weeks ago, the Category 1 Hurricane has doused the Carolinas with a
half-foot of rain, washed away a barrier island street and knocked out power, CNN reported.
No serious injuries or fatalities have been reported, but a surfer off
the South Carolina coast is missing, according to media reports.
According to the National Weather Service, at 11a.m. EDT Wednesday, a
hurricane warning – meaning hurricane conditions are expected within the next
24 hours – was in effect from the Little River Inlet to the North
Carolina/Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.
A hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning were in effect north of
the North Carolina/Virginia border to cape Charles Light, VA, including the
Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.
The center of the large eye of hurricane Ophelia was located about 40
miles south-southeast of Wilmington, NC, and about 85 miles southwest of Cape
Lookout, NC. Maximum sustained winds are approximately 80 mph with higher
Ophelia is moving toward the north-northeast at 7 mph, and is expected
to continue this movement throughout Wednesday. A gradual turn toward the
northeast at a slightly faster forward speed is expected to occur by Wednesday
evening. At this rate, the center of Ophelia is forecast to make landfall along
or pass just south of the North Carolina Outer Banks on Thursday.
Maximum coastal storm surge flooding of 5 to 7 feet above normal tide
levels, along with large and dangerous battering waves, are expected. A storm surge of 9 to 11 feet is possible at
the heads of bays and rivers.
Ophelia is expected to produce additional rainfall accumulations of 4
to 8 inches over northeastern South Carolina and eastern North Carolina, with
maximum storm total amounts of 15 inches possible over coastal sections of
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.