Tropical Storm Ophelia made landfall Saturday morning near Emerald Isle, North Carolina, as forecasters warn the storm will have impacts on major cities including Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.
As of Saturday morning, Ophelia had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and some coastal towns were experiencing several inches of floodwater.
The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland declared a state of emergency on Friday. Some schools closed early as communities prepared for the storm’s arrival.
Near where Ophelia made landfall, residents of Morehead City, North Carolina, were urged to take shelter from a “life-threatening” storm surge, the National Weather Service said Saturday .
Ophelia is expected to move over land as it heads north, passing through Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Delaware, southern New Jersey, and southeastern Pennsylvania. But the storm’s impacts will extend even further, with rain expected as far north as Massachusetts.
AccuWeather forecasters said Saturday that Ophelia would lose wind intensity as it traveled over land Saturday and Sunday, but the risk of flooding and storm surge would be high in some areas. The storm is expected to exit off the coast of New Jersey and return to the Atlantic Ocean by Monday morning, AccuWeather reported.
Since the storm is expected to track across much of the territory, its impacts on several states “will be much greater than Hurricane Lee which passed offshore last week,” AccuWeather reported.
Tens of thousands of customers were without power Saturday in North Carolina and Virginia, according to poweroutage.us.
Ophelia causes inland storm surge and flood risk
As Ophelia moved further inland Saturday morning, the risk of a dangerous storm surge also spread.
The National Hurricane Center warned of “life-threatening flooding” from rising waters moving inland and asked residents to quickly follow evacuation orders. Storm surge impacts can affect more than just coastal areas, as rising waters travel up rivers far from the ocean.
A storm surge map of the hurricane center released Saturday showed that rivers near cities such as Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia could experience storm surge impacts. Some North Carolina rivers could rise as much as 5 feet, according to forecasts.
Coastal cities in North Carolina, Virginia and Delaware were flooded Saturday morning, with several inches of water accumulating along neighborhood streets.
In Bethany Beach, Delaware, entire neighborhoods found themselves under several inches of water, leading to street closures, AccuWeather reported.
Photos from New Bern, North Carolina, show trash cans floating in foot-high floodwaters that encroached on the side of a home Friday, AccuWeather reported.
Residents were evacuated from towns along North Carolina’s Outer Banks on Friday as crews worked to clean up sand that Ophelia swept onto roads, AccuWeather reported.
Ophelia’s rain will affect a dozen states
The National Hurricane Center says rain from the storm will affect about a dozen states, from North Carolina to Massachusetts and as far away as West Virginia. Most areas expect less than 4 inches of rain, but a few areas could see up to 6 inches.
Wind is also a concern. Tropical storm-force winds extended more than 300 miles from central Ophelia on Saturday, the Hurricane Center said. Cape Lookout, North Carolina, reported a wind gust of 71 mph.
Coastal Delaware and New Jersey expect wind gusts between 50 and 60 mph through Saturday evening, with the strongest winds coming from mid-morning through early afternoon Saturday . Downed trees and power lines are also possible, forecasters said.
“Significant impacts” possible in the Washington DC region
Rain was falling lightly but steadily with some moderate wind gusts in the Washington, DC area Saturday afternoon.
But things are expected to improve later today and people in some areas should prepare for possible “significant impacts,” said Austin Mansfield, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Virginia.
Mansfield said heavier rain was expected through Saturday and overnight, and there could be some isolated incidents of flooding.
“Overall, the potential for flooding remains quite limited in our region,” he said. But coastal residents must remain on guard, he added.
“Just because we’re seeing some light rain right now doesn’t mean we won’t see larger impacts later today,” he said.
The wind could have a greater effect in the region, he said. Rain-saturated ground and strong wind gusts up to 40 to 50 mph could cause some trees to fall.
“We’ve already seen a few cases of trees being knocked down, so we could definitely see that happening over the next 24 hours,” Mansfield said.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul warned that heavy rains will bring a risk of flooding to New York, Long Island and the Hudson Valley this weekend. Forecasters said light to moderate rain began in the region as winds continued to strengthen, reaching their peak later in the day Saturday.
Residents prepare for storm surge
Nancy Shoemaker and her husband Bob stopped at a waterfront park in downtown Annapolis, Maryland’s capital, to collect sandbags to protect their waterfront home.
Last October, they experienced a strong surge of water that entered their yard and even washed away sandbags.
“We hope that’s not the case this time,” Nancy Shoemaker said. “If we have a lot of wind and a lot of waves, it can feel like the ocean, so that’s a problem.”
Ophelia assigned the water taxis Friday to Annapolis, where driver Scott Bierman said service would end at 6 p.m. and close Saturday.
“We do not operate where it could endanger passengers or damage vessels,” Bierman said.
Tracking the path of Tropical Storm Ophelia live
This forecast tracker shows the most likely path of the storm center. It does not illustrate the full width of the storm or its impacts, and the center of the storm is likely to move outside the cone up to 33% of the time.
Tropical Storm Ophelia Spaghetti Patterns
A Note on Spaghetti Models: Model plot illustrations include a range of forecasting tools and models, and not all are created equal. The hurricane center uses the four or five best-performing models to help it make its forecasts.
Contributor: Associated Press