Tropical Storm Ophelia gained strength as it churned toward the North Carolina coast on Friday, with a weekend of heavy rain and windy conditions expected throughout the mid-Atlantic.
Forecasters issued a hurricane watch for parts of eastern North Carolina, saying Ophelia showed the potential to gather even more strength as it passes over warm Gulf Stream waters.
The storm was expected to make landfall in North Carolina on Saturday morning and dump as much as 7 inches across portions of the state and into southeast Virginia.
The governors of North Carolina, Maryland and Virginia declared a state of emergency.
‘As this storm has organized and strengthened, it’s becoming clear based on the latest forecasts that impacts to the commonwealth are likely,’ said Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin.
‘We want to ensure that all communities, particularly those with the greatest anticipated impact, have the resources they need to respond and recover from the effects of this storm.’
‘We are expecting an extended period of strong winds, heavy rainfall, and elevated tides,’ Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said on Friday.
A Tropical Storm Warning has been issued by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) for areas including Cape Fear, Albemarle and Pamlico Sound in North Carolina as well as southern Delaware, southeastern Virginia and parts of Chesapeake Bay.
A Storm Surge Warning is in effect for areas from Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina to Chincoteague, Virginia and parts of the Chesapeake Bay south of Colonial Beach, Virginia.
Storm Surge Warning means there is a danger of life-threatening inundation, from rising water moving inland from the coastline. The storm surges are expected to reach three to five feet.
Ophelia is forecasted to produce three to five inches of rainfall, with potential to reach seven inches across portions of eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia.
Once the storm hits landfall in North Carolina it is expected to head north up the coast. By the time it reaches New York City, the worst of it will have passed.
Portions of the Mid-Atlantic into southern New England will see two to four inches of rain into Sunday.
Ophelia has reached maximum sustained wind levels of 60 miles per hour with higher gusts.
Some slight strengthening is possible before it hits landfall. It’s moving towards the north-northwest at 12mph.
Tropical Storm Ophelia is now the 16th named storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season.