Stalled Ophelia pounds Carolina coast
Erratic tropical storm causes more evacuations from Outer Banks
Tuesday, September 13, 2005; Posted: 3:44 p.m. EDT (19:44
Satellite image shows Ophelia as it swirls off the coast of the Carolinas
at 12:15 p.m. ET Tuesday.
ATLANTIC BEACH, North Carolina (AP) -- More of the exposed
Outer Banks chain of islands was ordered evacuated Tuesday as Tropical Storm
Ophelia drifted closer to the coast of the Carolinas with pounding surf
and a threat of heavy rain.
Rain was scattered along the coast as Ophelia bobbed and weaved
slowly to the north-northwest, with its top sustained wind staying at about
A hurricane warning was in effect from Georgetown, South Carolina,
to North Carolina's Cape Lookout, east of Morehead City, the National Hurricane
Center said. A tropical storm warning extended north along the Outer Banks
from Cape Lookout north to Oregon Inlet.
With many people on edge because of Hurricane Katrina, all
residents and visitors were ordered to evacuate Hatteras Island in the Outer
Banks on Tuesday, visitors already had been ordered off Ocracoke Island
and 300 National Guard troops were on duty.
The National Park Service closed the Cape Hatteras lighthouse
and the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. Schools were
closed in several coastal counties in both North and South Carolina.
"I don't think I would be human if I said Katrina had
no impact on me," Wilmington Mayor Spence Broadhurst said after calling
for a voluntary evacuation.
Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner declared an emergency Monday,
putting state agencies to work on storm preparations. South Carolina Gov.
Mark Sanford called for a voluntary evacuation of oceanfront and riverside
areas in the northeastern part of his state.
Few people heeded Sanford's call.
"If it's bad, of course we'll leave," Sandra Hunecutt
of Denver, North Carolina, said at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. But "this
is our vacation."
Because of stiff wind and heavy surf and tides, the Coast
Guard suspended a search for a surfer missing along the South Carolina coast.
The teenager was reported missing Sunday about 200 yards off the shore at
Folly Beach, South Carolina, and his board was found about a mile away.
"It's kicking our butts," Folly Beach Police Chief
George Tittle said of the weather Monday. "I wish we could do more
for the family right now, but we can't."
Ophelia's slow, erratic movement made it hard to predict its
path, but it appeared to be headed for North Carolina, Robbie Berg, a meteorologist
at the National Hurricane Center, said Tuesday.
After reaching land, the center's latest long-range models
show it veering north and east from North Carolina's Pamlico Sound, potentially
crossing the Outer Banks and then moving away from the coast, Berg said.
"The center could still pass very near Virginia."
It could regain hurricane strength, forecasters said.
At 2 p.m. EDT, Ophelia was centered about 125 miles south
of Wilmington and about 120 miles east-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina.
It was moving north-northwest at 4 mph. A gradual turn toward the north
expected during the night or on Wednesday, but continued erratic motion
was likely, the hurricane center said.
Instead of going out to sea, Don Pierce, who runs Blue Marlin
Fishing Charters out of Carolina Beach, south of Wilmington, spent the morning
working on a friend's boat in Wrightsville Beach.
"I was in Carolina Beach earlier, and it was pouring
buckets and blowing about 30 (mph). We're getting those outer bands of this
storm right now," he said.
Ophelia became a tropical storm Wednesday off the Florida
coast and later strengthened to a hurricane. It is the 15th named storm
and seventh hurricane in this year's busy Atlantic hurricane season, which
began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
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