Southeast US Coast Flooding 09/24 07:30
Storm Weakens as it Heads North
Residents in parts of coastal North Carolina and Virginia experienced
flooding Saturday after Tropical Storm Ophelia made landfall near a North
Carolina barrier island. Ophelia is expected to sweep northeast Sunday along
the mid-Atlantic coast to New Jersey.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Residents in parts of coastal North Carolina and
Virginia experienced flooding Saturday after Tropical Storm Ophelia made
landfall near a North Carolina barrier island, bringing rain, damaging winds
and dangerous surges.
The storm came ashore near Emerald Isle with near-hurricane-strength winds
of 70 mph (113 kph), but winds weakened as it traveled north with the center of
the storm crossing into Virginia by evening, the U.S. National Hurricane Center
said. Ophelia is expected to sweep northeast Sunday along the mid-Atlantic
coast to New Jersey.
At 7:44 p.m. EDT, the center said that Ophelia had slowed to become a
tropical depression, which is a weak form of a tropical storm, and all storm
surge and tropical storm warnings had been discontinued.
Still, videos from social media showed riverfront communities in North
Carolina such as New Bern, Belhaven and Washington experiencing significant
flooding. The extent of the damage was not immediately clear.
Winds were decreasing, and the system was expected to track toward the
northeast by Sunday. "Additional weakening is expected, and Ophelia is likely
to become a post-tropical cyclone tomorrow," said a Saturday night hurricane
Even before it made landfall, Ophelia proved treacherous enough that five
people had to be rescued by the Coast Guard on Friday night from a boat
anchored down near the North Carolina coastline.
Ophelia promises a weekend of windy conditions and heavy rain as it churns
up the East Coast, with the storm moving north at about 12 mph (19 kph) as of
Saturday evening. Parts of North Carolina and Virginia can expect up to 5
inches (13 centimeters) of rain, with 1 to 3 inches (3 to 8 centimeters)
forecast in the rest of the mid-Atlantic region through Sunday. Some New Jersey
shore communities, including Sea Isle City, had already experienced flooding
Philippe Papin, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center,
said the primary risk of the storm system over the next couple of days will be
the threat of floods from the rain.
"There have been tropical storm-force winds observed, but those are starting
to gradually subside as the system moves further inland," Papin said in an
interview early Saturday. "However, there is a significant flooding rainfall
threat for a large portion of eastern North Carolina into southern Virginia
over the next 12 to 24 hours."
Power outages spread through more states beyond North Carolina, where tens
of thousands of homes and businesses remained without electricity across
several eastern counties as of Saturday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us,
which tracks utility reports. A Duke Energy map showed scattered power outages
across much of eastern North Carolina, as winds toppled tree limbs and snagged
"When you have that slow-moving storm with several inches of rain, coupled
with a gust that gets to 30, 40 miles per hour, that's enough to bring down a
tree or to bring down limbs," Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks told WTVD-TV
on Saturday. "And that's what we've seen in most of the areas where we've
Brian Haines, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Division of Emergency
Management, said there were also reports of downed trees, but no major road
"North Carolina Emergency Management continues to monitor the situation and
to work with our county partners, who are currently not reporting any resource
needs," Haines said Saturday morning.
Five people, including three children 10 or younger, needed the Coast
Guard's help on the water when conditions worsened Friday. They were aboard a
38-foot (12-meter) catamaran anchored in Lookout Bight in Cape Lookout, North
Carolina, stuck in choppy water with strong winds.
According to the Coast Guard, the sailboat's owner called them on a
cellphone, prompting a nighttime rescue mission in which the crew used flares
to navigate to the five people using a Coast Guard boat, then helped them
aboard and left the sailboat behind. A Coast Guard helicopter lit up the path
back to the station. There were no injuries reported.
At the southern tip of North Carolina's Outer Banks, Carl Cannon Jr. said he
hopes he can salvage some of this weekend's long-running Beaufort Pirate
Invasion, a multiday event centering on the 1747 Spanish attack on the town. He
said three ships battle it out and attack the shore, and "Blackbeard" even gets
beheaded (though the real-life pirate was actually killed decades before the
But the storm's winds tore down the big tent for a banquet that was planned
for Saturday, and several other tents were damaged or shredded. Cannon Jr.
worries the financial hit will be significant, even with people helping clean
up and offering to run online fundraisers.
"It's been pretty devastating," said Cannon Jr., CEO of the nonprofit
running the event. "I'm just hoping that we somehow will be able to recover."
Cannon Jr. also hopes that soggy, windy conditions will allow for pirate
reenactors to clash Sunday in Beaufort.
"If I can get the boats out there, we will have an attack and the people
will fight on the shore," he said.
Elsewhere, the impact was more modest.
Aaron Montgomery, 38, said as the rain started coming down hard on Saturday,
he noticed a leak in the roof of the home his family just moved into in
Williamsburg, Virginia. Still, they were able to safely make the hour-long
drive for his wife's birthday to Virginia Beach, where he said the surf and
wind were strong but it had stopped raining.
"No leak in a roof is insignificant, so it's certainly something we have to
deal with Monday morning," he said.
The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland each declared a state
of emergency on Friday.
It is not uncommon for one or two tropical storms, or even hurricanes, to
develop right off the East Coast each year, National Hurricane Center Director
Michael Brennan said.
"We're right at the peak of hurricane season. We can basically have storms
form anywhere across much of the Atlantic basin," Brennan said in an interview
Scientists say climate change could result in hurricanes expanding their
reach into mid-latitude regions more often, making storms like this month's
Hurricane Lee more common.
One study simulated tropical cyclone tracks from pre-industrial times,
modern times and a future with higher emissions. It found that hurricanes would
track closer to the coasts, including around Boston, New York and Virginia, and
be more likely to form along the Southeast coast.
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