Ophelia will impact R-C area

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Don't let your guard down just yet.

Even though Hurricane Ophelia was downgraded to a tropical storm Monday afternoon, local emergency management officials warned Roanoke-Chowan area residents that the storm remained a threat for northeastern North Carolina with stiff winds and the possibility of flash flooding.

At 2 p.m. on Monday, Ophelia was packing sustained winds of 70 mph, just under hurricane strength. It was located 255 miles south-southwest of Cape Hatteras and was moving at a snail's pace n approximately 4 mph to the north-northwest.

Tropical storm force winds (at least 30 mph) extended 160 miles from its center.

Due to its uncertain track, one that has wavered since Ophelia developed last week off the mid-Florida coast, National Weather Service officials are now estimating the storm will make landfall Wednesday somewhere along southeast North Carolina coast. It is then predicted to turn north and then northeast as it gains speed and accelerates off the northern Outer Banks.

Meanwhile, local officials are keeping close tabs on the storm.

"The track is still not certain, but it looks like we'll dodge a bullet this time around," said Northampton County EMS Director Ronald Storey. "The storm is fairly large, so its outer fringes and rain bands may creep close enough to us to cause a few headaches."

Storey said early predictions were for 5-6 inches of rain along the I-95 corridor, but that now seems to be an overestimation.

"The way it looks right now, we'll get about an inch of rain out of this storm, maybe two inches at the worse," he said. "We're monitoring it very closely. We don't want to let our guard down."

Hertford County EMS Director Charles Jones was also keeping an eye on the tropical system.

"It's just one of those wait-and-see things," Jones noted. "From what we're being told, the storm may be nothing more than a rainmaker for us. If it comes up the (Albemarle) sound like we're expecting to do, we'll see the things typical with a system of this size n tropical storm force winds, rain and some isolated power outages due to fallen trees and limbs on power lines."

Jones said the State Office of Emergency Management had activated the National Guard, NC Forest Service personnel and a trio of swift water rescue teams just in case.

"I don't see it as a significant storm, but that's not to say we need to drop our guard," Jones concluded. "We'll continue to monitor the storm very closely and we'll be right here ‘round the clock to serve the people of Hertford County."

A storm warning and small craft advisory are in effect for the Albemarle Sound and Chowan River. East winds, increasing to as high as 70 knots, and five-foot waves are expected by Wednesday night.

Local weather conditions are expected to improve later in the day on Thursday. The extended forecast calls for mostly sunny skies and a high in the mid-80's by Friday.

Federal officials warn that any storm, even a strong tropical storm or category one hurricane,

poses serious danger.

Following is a list of actions that individuals should undertake and supplies to gather before Ophelia’s anticipated landfall:

Plan a safe evacuation route and identify safe shelter space within your area. Those in storm surge zones, in flood zones, or in less than standard housing should be especially vigilant in preparing disaster plans.

Have disaster supplies on hand, including: flashlight, portable battery-operated radio and extra batteries, first-aid kit, emergency food and water (including a non-electric can opener), essential medicines, cash and credit cards, sturdy shoes and a change of clothing, and copies of important papers (bank statements, insurance records, deeds, etc.).

Check your emergency supplies. Store drinking water in clean bathtubs, jugs, bottles and available cooking pots.

Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, toys and garden tools; anchor objects that cannot be brought inside but that could be wind-tossed.

Fuel your car and review evacuation routes.