EMERALD ISLE, N.C. – Powerful Tropical Storm Ophelia made landfall in North Carolina early Saturday morning at near-hurricane-force strength, lashing a large swath of the mid-Atlantic with blistering winds, heavy rains and dangerous storm surge.
The center of Ophelia made landfall near Emerald Isle about 6:15 a.m. EDT with maximum winds of about 70 mph, falling just short of reaching hurricane status, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC). However, Ophelia's impacts stretched far beyond its center, with Tropical Storm Warnings at one point covering 7 million people along the Eastern Seaboard.
The U.S. Coast Guard said it had to rescue five people Friday from an anchored 38-foot catamaran beset by weather conditions caused by Ophelia around Cape Lookout, North Carolina. The NHC said an observation site in Cape Lookout reported sustained winds of 61 mph with a gust to 73 mph on Saturday morning.
Significant coastal flooding was reported in Washington, North Carolina; Sea Isle City, New Jersey; and Stone Harbor, New Jersey, with some drivers needing assistance from first responders despite pleas for vehicles to stay clear of high water. At least one driver in Stone Harbor, New Jersey, ventured into floodwaters and required help from first responders. Video showed the roadway covered with water and a high-water vehicle assisting during the response.
Several airlines, including Delta, United and Southwest, issued travel advisories, warned of potential flight delays along the East Coast due to the severe weather as travelers witnessed hundreds of flights that were either delayed or canceled.
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The fierce winds on the East Coast also caused more than 70,000 power outages during the height of the storm. Data from PowerOutage.us showed many of the outages had been restored, with North Carolina and Virginia being the hardest hit.
The remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia are expected to continue to travel along the Interstate 95 corridor through Monday, spreading heavy rainfall and coastal flooding for communities between Norfolk, Virginia, and New York City.
As much as 1 to 3 inches of additional rainfall is expected from Virginia through the Delmarva Peninsula and into southern New England.
The combination of high tides and additional rainfall could lead to coastal flooding, with millions still under coastal flood alerts.
Weather conditions aren't expected to improve before Monday in places such as Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York City and Hartford, Connecticut.
Stormy Saturday for mid-Atlantic
On Saturday morning, severe flooding occurred in the coastal town of Belhaven, North Carolina, due to storm surge from Ophelia, which made landfall about 60 miles to the south. The staff of The Mad Batter bakery in downtown Belhaven filmed footage as they checked on the premises during this time.
"Downtown Belhaven is flooded. No water in the bakery but there’s no getting to it," they wrote on Facebook. "We did have to secure some things in case the power goes out, but promise we drove slow, only went to the bakery and came back home."
"When you’re between the buildings, it’s bearable, but as soon as you step out into the open, all hell breaks loose," he said on X, formerly known as Twitter, along with a video showing the rain and fierce winds whipping.
An officer in Greenville, North Carolina, rescued a dog from flooding caused by the high tides and heavy rainfall. Police said the dog was tied to a fence and could have been inches from drowning.
The dog was taken to the local animal services facility, where he will be cared for until police can sort out who the owner is.
3 states declare states of emergency due to Tropical Storm Ophelia
States of emergency were declared in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland in the run-up to the storm.
Virginia Beach was hit by heavy rain Friday night as Ophelia began to make its presence felt. The oceanfront community is expected to experience large waves, so extra personnel have been brought in to deal with any emergencies, city officials said. Some schools closed early around the Norfolk and Hampton Roads area as towns prepared for the storm's arrival, and several weekend events were canceled.
Ophelia has been on cyclone naming lists for many years but has never been retired. It's now the 15th named storm of the busier-than-average Atlantic hurricane season.
In the 1980s and 1990s, hurricane seasons never reached the stage of using Ophelia due in part to reduced tropical cyclone activity during the decades.
However, in the 2000s, there was a flurry of activity, and Ophelia made its presence known at least three times across the Atlantic, with impacts felt in several countries, including the U.S.