Ophelia wreaks havoc with flooding, power outages along East coast


Ophelia tracked northward across eastern North Carolina into southeastern Virginia on Saturday. Although it lost wind intensity while moving over land and was classified as a tropical depression by Saturday evening, it continued to pack a punch across much of the East, unleashing drenching rain and threatening flooding from eastern North Carolina to southern New Hampshire.

The storm’s gusty winds cut power to nearly 55,000 customers as of 5 p.m. EDT Saturday, according to PowerOutage.us. North Carolina and Virginia topped the list of affected states, the utility tracker reported. Wind gusts as high as 80 miles per hour were measured in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

Hazardous conditions developed along the coast even well ahead of the storm’s landfall when Ophelia crashed onshore near Emerald Isle, North Carolina, around 6:15 a.m. EDT Saturday. It was a strong tropical storm with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph at landfall. Several people had to be rescued due to dangerous seas stirred by Ophelia even as it approached land.

As the storm inched north once inland, dangerous episodes of flash flooding were developing. Greenville, North Carolina, located in the eastern part of the state, was enduring a “major flash flood event” on Saturday afternoon, according to storm chaser Aaron Rigsby, who added that several vehicles had been carried “a sizeable distance.” Entire parking lots filled with cars were flooded, he reported. 

The latest on Tropical Storm Ophelia

As of 8:00 p.m. EDT Saturday, Ophelia had maximum sustained winds of 35 mph. The center of the storm was located about 40 miles south-southwest of Richmond, Virginia, as it moved north at 9 mph.

The Tidal Basin in Washington overflows the banks with the rain from Tropical Storm Ophelia, Saturday, Sept. 23, 2023. The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flooding warning for the area. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

AccuWeather forecasters say that Ophelia will continue to advance northward over land into Sunday morning before it turns northeastward over Virginia on Sunday. The storm will slow its forward motion and prolong the duration of soaking rain affecting millions across the mid-Atlantic. 

Hazardous surf led to several rescues, coastal inundation 

Dangerous seas led to problems as the Coast Guard had to rescue five people from a boat anchored near the North Carolina coast on Friday night, The Associated Press reported. 

Rigbsy was on the scene after rough seas from Ophelia sank a boat with the owner inside in Newport News, Virginia, early Saturday morning. The man told Rigsby he woke up and was suddenly in the water, his boat appearing to have hit the dock so many times that it sank.

“Thankfully seas calmed for rescue crews to extract him,” Rigsby said.

Storm surge flooding also inundated some communities Friday evening well in advance of the storm’s strike along the coast. Rigsby reported knee-high water in many homes along the waterfront in New Bern, North Carolina, adding that the worst conditions there were still yet to come with high tide early Saturday morning. 

The power of Ophelia had already proved to be a formidable force in parts of the Outer Banks. Highway 12 at Mirlo Beach, North Carolina, located along the Outer Banks, was covered with sand and water by Friday afternoon.

A look at Tropical Storm Ophelia on radar Saturday morning.

A look at Tropical Storm Ophelia on radar Saturday morning.

“We’re already seeing hazardous conditions,” Drew Pearson told AccuWeather in an interview on Friday. Pearson is the Director of Emergency Management in Dare County, North Carolina, the part of the state that experienced some of the worst of Ophelia’s impacts.

Farther to the north, AccuWeather National Reporter Bill Wadell filmed streets flooded by storm surge in Bethany Beach, Delaware, around dawn on Saturday.

Rough surf was visible in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, as Ophelia was bearing down farther south along the North Carolina coast, Wadell reported. Crews were out keeping an eye on dunes for any weak points, he added. 

Ophelia’s storm surge proved damaging in some communities. Rigsby captured footage of major damage in Washington, North Carolina, on Saturday afternoon, where storm surge and wind had left their mark. Trees could be seen downed on the ground and water remained on the road in a residential area. 

East Coast preparations ahead of the storm

Friday marked the final day of astronomical summer before the changing of the seasons, but instead of enjoying warm, sunny conditions, people from South Carolina to Delaware made last-minute provisions to brace for the rapidly developing storm.

States of emergency were declared in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland in advance of Ophelia.

Ophelia also resulted in disruptions to travel and weekend events. The Nationals baseball team postponed a game scheduled for Saturday in Washington, D.C., until Sunday, and ferry services were suspended in North Carolina, the AP reported.

Some people braved the wind, crashing waves and rain to head out to the beach as conditions deteriorated on Friday.

I just had to have one beach fix before I nestled in for the winter,” one visitor told Wadell at a beach in Maryland.

Other visitors told Wadell about their impressions of Ophelia after the storm hit on Saturday.

“Mother nature is impressive,” Melina Gillis, a Fenwick Island, Delaware, resident, said.

She noted concerns about more flooding from what she had already witnessed along the coast, pointing to the condition of sand dunes in parts of the region.

“It’s definitely impressive seeing the force she has, and this isn’t even a hurricane,” Tom Gillis, a Fenwick Island, Delaware, resident, told Wadell.

Source: Accu Weather