Tropical Storm Ophelia hammered the North Carolina coast in the early hours of Saturday, only to transform into a post-tropical cyclone later that night, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Despite its diminishing strength, Ophelia still presents a substantial threat of coastal and flash flooding across the Mid-Atlantic, extending from Virginia to New Jersey throughout Sunday.
Social media was awash with harrowing videos depicting communities along North Carolina’s riverfront, such as New Bern, Belhaven, and Washington, grappling with substantial flooding. The full extent of the damage remains unclear.
Ophelia’s center moved into southeastern Virginia on Saturday night and was projected to reach the Delmarva Peninsula, encompassing parts of Maryland and Delaware, on Sunday. With maximum sustained winds of 35 mph on Saturday evening, the storm was approximately 30 miles southwest of Richmond, Virginia, moving north at a pace of 8 mph.
Radar, hurricane hunter aircraft, and ground observers pinpointed Ophelia’s landfall around 6:15 a.m. local time near Emerald Isle, with maximum sustained winds reaching 70 mph—a mere 25 miles northwest of Cape Lookout.
Even before making landfall, Ophelia proved treacherous, necessitating the Coast Guard’s rescue of five individuals from a boat anchored near the North Carolina coastline on Friday night.
The forecast called for up to 5 inches of rain in parts of North Carolina and Virginia, with 1 to 3 inches anticipated in the broader mid-Atlantic region through Sunday. Several New Jersey shore communities, including Sea Isle City, had already contended with flooding on Saturday.
Philippe Papin, a hurricane specialist at the National Hurricane Center, emphasized the impending risk of flooding due to rainfall. The governors of North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland declared states of emergency, leading to school closures and the cancellation of numerous weekend events.
Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks noted the potential for power outages caused by falling trees and limbs due to strong gusts and heavy rainfall. Meanwhile, Brian Haines, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, reported downed trees but no significant road closures.
Several storm surge and tropical storm warnings for North Carolina, Virginia, and Delaware were lifted on Saturday night.
In a dramatic nighttime rescue, the Coast Guard came to the aid of five individuals, including three children aged 10 or younger, who were stranded aboard a 38-foot catamaran in Cape Lookout, North Carolina. Conditions had worsened, prompting a call to the Coast Guard, which successfully navigated the choppy waters and strong winds to rescue the stranded group. No injuries were reported.
The impact of Ophelia’s wrath extended beyond weather, as the Nationals baseball team in Washington postponed its Saturday game to Sunday. In North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the Beaufort Pirate Invasion, a long-running multiday event, faced considerable setbacks due to the storm’s damaging winds, causing tent structures to collapse and prompting concerns about significant financial losses.
As Ophelia continues its path of destruction through the Mid-Atlantic, residents and authorities remain vigilant in the face of this relentless weather phenomenon.