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Tropical Storm Ophelia makes landfall in North Carolina, bringing heavy rain and strong winds to the Mid-Atlantic


Tropical Storm Ophelia is continuing to bring heavy rainfall and strong winds to parts of the Mid-Atlantic after making landfall early Saturday morning near North Carolina’s Emerald Isle on the East coast.

The storm is expected to move deeper inland into North Carolina Saturday morning and then north into southeastern Virginia and the northeastern states. It’s currently located about 75 miles north-northwest of Cape Lookout, North Carolina along the coast and has maximum sustained winds of 50 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Ophelia is forecasted to bring flooding, coastal storm surge and potential tornadoes to the Mid-Atlantic this weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Severe weather, including heavy rain paired with flooding, hail and tornadoes is also likely in parts of the Central U.S., including eastern Oklahoma into the Lower Missouri River Valley through Saturday night.

“A tornado or two may occur today over parts of the Mid-Atlantic Coast,” the National Hurricane Center said.

The system has already brought tropical storm conditions to North Carolina, with rainfall upwards of 1 to 3 inches per hour and sustained winds with gusts of 35 to 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service’s field office in Raleigh.

Eastern parts of the state, along with southeast Virginia, are expected to receive “3 to 5 inches with isolated higher totals around 8 inches into Sunday morning,” according to the National Hurricane Center.

A flash flood warning was in effect for a swath of the region in North Carolina, including the cities of Rocky Mount, Wilson and Roanoke Rapids until 3 p.m. ET. Residents were warned to move to higher ground and avoid walking or driving through flood waters.

A tropical storm warning is in effect along the east coast from Fenwick Island, Delaware south to Cape Lookout, North Carolina.

An isolated tornado is also possible along North Carolina’s coast, according to the weather service. Two tornado warnings were in place earlier Saturday morning in parts of northeastern North Carolina.

Over 85,000 utility customers are without power in North Carolina and almost 16,000 are without power in Virginia as of Saturday afternoon, according to

Elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic, rainfall of up to 2 to 4 inches is possible through Sunday. Around 1 to 3 inches of rain is possible across southern New York through southern New England Saturday into Monday.

“This rainfall may produce locally considerable flash, urban, and small stream flooding impacts, particularly across the Mid Atlantic region from North Carolina to New Jersey,” the National Hurricane Center said in an update. “Isolated river flooding is possible in areas of heavier rainfall.”

A storm surge warning is in effect along the east coast of North Carolina and Virginia and in part of the Chesapeake Bay. A storm surge watch is in effect for part of the area spanning from the Albemarle Sound south to the Pamlico Sound.

Ophelia is also expected to generate ocean swells that will affect much of the East coast through the weekend that “are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”

The storm is expected to weaken and will likely become a post-tropical cyclone by Sunday, meaning it will no longer possesses the characteristics to be considered tropical.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.