A powerful storm that had been moving up the East Coast has officially been upgraded to a tropical storm, gaining the designation Ophelia after winds reached 60 mph.
States along the eastern seaboard are preparing for intense weather over the weekend, which is expected to bring strong winds and potentially life-threatening storm surges.
The concern is heightened to a point that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has declared a State of Emergency ahead of the storm’s landfall.
“As this storm has organized and strengthened, it’s becoming clear based on the latest forecasts that impacts to the commonwealth are likely,” said 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.”
The National Hurricane Center issued a Tropical Storm Warning for areas such as Cape Fear, Albemarle and Pamlico Sound in North Carolina, as well as parts of southern Delaware, the southeast of Virginia and parts of Chesapeake Bay.
Additionally, the areas between Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina and Chincoteague, Virginia, as well as part of the Chesapeake Bay to the south of Colonial Beach, Virginia, are all under a Storm Surge Warning, meaning there is danger of life-threatening floods from rising water moving inland from the coastline. These surges are expected to reach three to five feet.
Ophelia is expected to produce between three and five inches of rainfall, but could reach up to seven inches across portions of eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia.
The storm is expected to make landfall in North Carolina and head north up the coast, with the worst passing by the time it reaches New York City. However, portions of the Mid-Atlantic and even parts of southern New England could see two to four inches of rain into Sunday.
Ophelia has reached maximum sustained wind levels of 60 miles per hour with higher gusts, although some strengthening is possible before it hits landfall.
The storm marks the 16th named storm of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have predicted an “above normal” hurricane season in the region due to record warm ocean temperatures.
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