ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Tropical Storm Ophelia gained strength as it moved towards the North Carolina coast on Friday, bringing with it heavy rain and windy conditions across the mid-Atlantic region.
Forecasters have issued a hurricane watch for parts of eastern North Carolina, as Ophelia is expected to intensify further as it passes over warm Gulf Stream waters. The storm is projected to make landfall in North Carolina on Saturday morning and could bring as much as 7 inches (17.7 centimeters) of rainfall to parts of the state and southeast Virginia.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center reported that Ophelia has become a tropical storm with sustained winds of 60 mph (95 kph). Some areas are under a storm surge warning, with surges between 3 and 5 feet (0.9 and 1.5 meters) expected in parts of North Carolina.
The governors of North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland have declared a state of emergency. Schools have closed early and several weekend events have been canceled in preparation for the storm.
Nancy Shoemaker and her husband Bob, residents of Annapolis, Maryland, picked up sandbags to protect their waterfront home. They experienced flooding last year and are hoping to avoid a similar situation this time.
A storm surge warning is in effect from Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, to Chincoteague, Virginia, and a tropical storm warning is in place from Cape Fear, North Carolina, to Fenwick Island, Delaware.
Water taxis in Annapolis have already been affected by the storm, with service shutting down early. The decision has also been made to keep the taxis closed on Saturday.
According to Michael Brennan, director of the National Hurricane Center, it is not uncommon to see tropical storms or hurricanes form off the East Coast at this time of the year.
Scientists have suggested that climate change could lead to more hurricanes forming in mid-latitude regions, making storms like Hurricane Lee more frequent. The impact could be felt in coastal areas such as Boston, New York, and Virginia.
Governors Roy Cooper of North Carolina and Glenn Youngkin of Virginia have issued emergency declarations to aid in preparations and response efforts.