Tropical Storm Ophelia came ashore in North Carolina early Saturday and dropped several inches of rain on the state as it spun north, with rain bands expected to linger into the late evening.
Ophelia’s storm surges inundated some coastal areas and brought wind and rain as far inland as Chapel Hill. The state Department of Public Safety said there are downed trees, flooding and road closures in parts of eastern and central North Carolina.
The National Weather Service said to expect 4 to 7 inches of rain east of Interstate 95 on Saturday and 2 to 4 inches around the Triangle.
Ophelia was barely a tropical storm at 5 p.m., with maximum sustained winds dropping to 40 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. The strongest gusts were seen east of I-95, and the wind threat dropped off in the late afternoon.
The NWS placed Wake, Durham, Person and Harnett counties, plus everything to their east, under a flood watch early Saturday morning.
Raleigh and most of Wake County were upgraded to a flash flood warning around midday, though the I-95 corridor got the worst of the rain.
The NWS said the first bands of rain from Ophelia, bringing .5 to 1 inch of rain per hour, reached central North Carolina in late morning.
A second, heavier band of rain — with amounts reaching 1 to 3 inches per hour — arrived in the Triangle in the afternoon, according to the NWS.
At 5 p.m., Duke Energy was reporting about 11,000 customers without power in North Carolina — about 600 in Wake County, and about 1,700 in Durham County. Earlier in the day, outages peaked around 50,000, according to state officials.
The center of Tropical Storm #Ophelia is located 80 miles ENE of Raleigh and moving to the N at 13 mph.
Moderate to heavy rainfall will continue for the next few hours. Have any reports of flooding? Tag us in your post!
️Don't attempt to drive through flooded roadways! #NCwx pic.twitter.com/3LrWEC5fMa
— NWS Raleigh (@NWSRaleigh) September 23, 2023
Durham’s annual Pride parade, festival and concert, scheduled for Saturday, were canceled due to the storm.
“We do not want our programs to put anyone at risk,” a message posted to the LGBTQ Center of Durham’s website stated.
Friday night, the Coast Guard rescued five people from a sailboat anchored in Cape Lookout when the conditions in the channel became too hazardous, with 6-foot to 8-foot seas and occasional 10-foot swells. Winds were 35 to 40 mph.
The owner of the catamaran called for a rescue at 7:13 p.m. when he started to feel uneasy. The Coast Guard transferred them to a rescue boat at 9:23 p.m. and brought them ashore an hour later. Three of the people on board were children, aged 4, 7 and 10. No one was injured.
Gov. Roy Cooper urged caution Saturday afternoon.
“Water levels could remain elevated through this evening for areas adjacent to the Pamlico, Neuse, Pungo and Bay rivers and farther north along the northern Albemarle Sound and soundside Outer Banks,” Cooper said in a statement.
According to reports from NOAA and the National Hurricane Center, tropical storm warnings remained in effect from Ocracoke Inlet all the way up the East Coast to Delaware.
How much wind did the storm bring?
NWS stations around the state shared the highest gusts observed this weekend:
Cape Lookout: 72 mph
Beaufort: 67 mph
Jacksonville: 60 mph
Wilmington: 56 mph
Rocky Mount: 45 mph
Burlington: 44 mph
Goldsboro: 41 mph
Fayetteville: 39 mph
Halifax: 39 mph
Raleigh: 38 mph
Greensboro: 37 mph
How much rain?
Here are the 48-hour rainfall totals as of 2:30 p.m., according to the NWS:
Tarboro: 4.65 inches
Wilmington: 3.24 inches
Garner: 2.72 inches
Mount Olive: 2.70 inches
Rocky Mount: 2.61 inches
Goldsboro: 2.47 inches
Raleigh: 2.15 inches
Warrenton: 1.82 inches
— Mark Sudduth (@hurricanetrack) September 23, 2023
▪ High winds and heavy rains can cause trees to fall, which can bring down power lines. Scattered power outages are likely across the eastern half of the state.
▪ Tornadoes are possible today and Saturday in the coastal area that will be most affected by the storm, forecasters say. Further inland, NWS said, tornadoes are unlikely.
▪ Dangerous ocean rip currents are likely the length of the coast, and visitors are asked not to swim until the risk has passed.
When will the storm be gone?
The storm should be out of North Carolina by late Saturday night.
Local forecasts from Raleigh to the coast call for partly sunny skies on Sunday with a breeze.