Updated Sep 23, 2023 - Energy & Environment

Tropical Storm Ophelia drenches Carolinas, Mid-Atlantic

Satellite view of Tropical Storm Ophelia on Saturday, Sept. 23. Credit: NOAA/GOES

Tropical Storm Ophelia is bringing heavy rains, strong winds and coastal flooding Saturday from the Carolinas to the Jersey Shore.

The big picture: The storm made landfall early Saturday morning near Emerald Isle, N.C., with top sustained winds of 70 mph. It was steadily weakening Saturday afternoon, and forecast to become a tropical depression Saturday evening.

  • The National Hurricane Center is warning of life-threatening storm surge flooding along coastal areas of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey Saturday afternoon and evening.
  • Storm surge refers to a rise of water, typically driven by a storm's winds, above the predicted astronomical tide levels.
  • Heavy rains are also expected to worsen from Washington to Wilmington, north to Philadelphia, Atlantic City and New York City through Saturday night.

Zoom in: In parts of the Carolinas, more than 6 inches of rainfall has fallen, and flood warnings have been issued. As the core of the storm spins north-northeastward, areas that have seen about 2 inches of rain so far, including the I-95 corridor, may pick up another 2 to 3 inches.

  • Moderate to major coastal flooding is forecast for the Mid-Atlantic coastline as the storm's strong onshore winds bring high waves along with a surge of water on top of typical tide levels.

Between the lines: The storm began as an area of low pressure along a slow-moving cold front, but gradually took on tropical characteristics. Friday night, Ophelia took advantage of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream to intensify nearly to hurricane strength before crossing the coast.

  • Throughout Saturday, bands of heavy rains have been pushing outward, far-removed from the core of the tropical storm, all the way into southern New England.
  • There have been scattered reports of trees and power lines down in the Richmond and Washington, D.C. areas, with more abundant damage reports further south and east.
  • So far, wind gusts to hurricane force have been noted in North Carolina, including 80 mph in Wrightsville Beach, 64 mph in Lewes, Delaware, 58 mph in Dewey Beach, Delaware, and 54 mph on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Our thought bubble: Ophelia came ashore as a stronger storm than initially expected, which may surprise some of the nearly 7 million people under tropical storm warnings as of Saturday afternoon.

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Editor's note: This story was updated with new information from the latest forecast.

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