Residents in parts of coastal North Carolina and Virginia experienced flooding on Saturday after tropical storm Ophelia made landfall near a North Carolina barrier island, bringing rain, damaging winds and dangerous surges.
Some New Jersey shore communities experience flooding, too
The Associated Press
Residents in parts of coastal North Carolina and Virginia experienced flooding on Saturday after tropical storm Ophelia made landfall near a North Carolina barrier island, bringing rain, damaging winds and dangerous surges of water.
The storm came ashore Saturday near Emerald Isle with near-hurricane-strength winds of 113 km/h at about 6:15 a.m. local time, but its winds weakened as it travelled north, said the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Ophelia is expected to sweep northeast Sunday along the mid-Atlantic coast up to New Jersey.
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 is not yet known.
Ophelia promises a weekend of windy conditions and heavy rain as it churns up the east coast, with the storm moving north at about 19 km/h as of Saturday evening. Parts of North Carolina and Virginia can expect up to 13 centimetres of rain, with three to eight centimetres forecast in the rest of the mid-Atlantic region through Sunday.
Some New Jersey shore communities, including Sea Isle City, had already experienced some flooding on Saturday.
Philippe Papin, a hurricane specialist with the centre, said the primary risk 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 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.
Brian Haines, a spokesperson for North Carolina Emergency Management, said there were reports of downed trees but no major road closures.
A storm surge warning, indicating danger from rising water moving inland, was in effect from Ocracoke Inlet, N.C., to Chincoteague, Va. Surges of between 0.6 and 1.2 metres were forecast in some areas. A tropical storm warning was issued from Cape Fear in North Carolina to Fenwick Island in Delaware.
Five people, including three children 10 or younger, needed the U.S. Coast Guard’s help on the water when conditions worsened Friday. They were aboard a 12-metre catamaran anchored in Lookout Bight in Cape Lookout, N.C., 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. 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 multi-day event centring on the 1747 Spanish attack on the town.
Three ships battle it out and attack the shore, and Blackbeard even gets beheaded, he said.
But the storm’s winds tore down the big tent for the banquet planned for Saturday and several other tents were damaged or shredded. Cannon Jr. worries the financial hit will be significant.
“It’s been pretty devastating,” said Cannon Jr., CEO and commander of the non-profit 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 re-enactors to clash Sunday in Beaufort.
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, Va.
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 was strong but it had stopped raining.
3 governors declare state of emergency
The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland declared a state of emergency on Friday.
It is not uncommon for one or two tropical storms, or even hurricanes, to form off the east coast each year, U.S. 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.
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.