Lingering Ophelia lashes at U.S. Carolinas coast

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The slow moving, and wavering between hurricane status and tropical storm Ophelia, crawled up the U.S. coastline from northern Florida on what appears to be a track for landfall on Thursday near Cape Lookout, North Carolina on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Ophelia gained some strength to a Category 1 hurricane over the last 24 hours while on its north-northeast track to side-swipe the protruding coastline of the Carolinas.

Power outages were reported with sustained winds of 80 mph and rain, up to 6 inches, in the southeast portion of the state. Ocean Isle Beach closed a bridge to the barrier islands due to the rough surf conditions created by Ophelia.

Residents and tourists had been ordered on Sunday to evacuate Ocracoke by governor Michael F. Easley. Tourists on Hatteras Island were also ordered to leave, but earlier on Monday, emergency officials for Dare County decided against an ordered evacuation for the northern portion of the Outer Banks.

Weaker tropical and hurricane storms such as Ophelia have in the past still caused major damage from flooding in North Carolina's barrier islands from winds stirring up the shallow sound waters between the mainlaind and Outer Banks.

Further inland from the storm, except for the possibility of thunderstorms, little effect from Ophelia is expected. Virginia's governor Mark R. Warner declared a state of emergency on Monday as a precaution. Nearly two dozen F-15 fighter jets were moved from Hampton's Langley Air Force base out of Ophelia's way to Florida.