“Potential Tropical Cyclone 16” strengthened into Tropical Storm Ophelia on Friday and was on track to hit North Carolina, forecasters said.
According to the National Hurricane Center, Ophelia developed into a tropical storm in the Atlantic around 2 p.m., and a hurricane watch hit the east coast of North Carolina at 5 p.m.
The hurricane watch extended from north of Surf City to Ocracoke Inlet. Tropical storm and storm surge warnings were issued in other areas.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm. Emergency declarations allow for state aid and other assistance.
The storm’s effects were already being felt as bands of rain moved into North Carolina, the National Weather Service said Friday afternoon.
“Conditions begin to deteriorate well ahead of center into the mid-Atlantic states,” said Michael Brennan, director of the National Hurricane Center a video briefing late Friday afternoon.
North Carolina’s Coastal Plain region could see 3 to 5 inches of rain, and the “Triangle,” which includes Chapel Hill, could see 2 inches, according to the agency.
According to the hurricane center, Ophelia had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph as it approached the North Carolina coast at 5 p.m.
The storm was not expected to intensify much before reaching the center said in a bulletin. It was forecast to move across eastern North Carolina and into Virginia on Saturday and Sunday.
The center of the storm is expected to reach the North Carolina coast early Saturday, Brennan said.
The governors of North Carolina and Virginia urged people to take precautions.
In addition to the winds, some areas, including Pamlico Sound, could experience storm surges of up to 4 to 6 feet, the hurricane center said. An area from Surf City to Chincoteague, Virginia, could see a storm surge of 2 to 4 feet, it said.
Tropical storm warnings reached Delaware and the Chesapeake Bay. The storm is expected to become a tropical storm in North Carolina and Virginia but then weaken to a tropical depression.
Eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia could see isolated rainfall totals of 7 inches, but 3 to 5 inches were generally expected. According to the hurricane center, 2 to 4 inches of rain could fall in other mid-Atlantic states.