Tens of thousands of Americans were left without power on Saturday after Tropical Storm Ophelia made landfall on the coast of North Carolina.
The storm made landfall near Emerald Isle early on Saturday morning, lashing eastern parts of the state with rain, 70-mile-an-hour winds and dangerous surges of water.
The US National Hurricane Center said Ophelia would keep weakening as it turns north on Saturday and then shifts northeast on Sunday.
More than 43,000 people were without power in North Carolina as the storm arrived on Saturday, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility reports, with a further 13,000 people affected in Virginia.
“When you have that slow-moving storm with several inches of rain, coupled with a gust that gets to 30, 40 miles per hour, that’s enough to bring down a tree or to bring down limbs,” Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks told WTVD-TV on Saturday. “And that’s what we’ve seen in most of the areas where we’ve experienced outages.”
Philippe Papin, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center, said the primary risk of the storm system over the next couple of days will be the threat of floods from the rain.
“There have been tropical-storm-force winds observed, but those are starting to gradually subside as the system moves further inland,” Mr Papin said. “However, there is a significant flooding rainfall threat for a large portion of eastern North Carolina into southern Virginia over the next 12 to 24 hours.”
A storm surge warning, indicating danger from rising ocean water pushed inland by Ophelia, was in effect from Bogue Inlet, North Carolina, to Chincoteague, Virginia. Surges between four and six feet were forecast in some areas. A tropical storm warning was issued from Cape Fear, North Carolina, to Fenwick Island, Delaware.
The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland each declared a state of emergency on Friday. Some schools closed early and several weekend events were canceled. The North Carolina Ferry System has suspended service on all routes until conditions improve.