Tropical storm conditions are starting to be realized on Friday morning with rain, increasing winds, and hazardous ocean conditions affecting the Outer Banks, per an update from the National Weather Service (NWS).
The National Hurricane Center anticipates that Tropical Storm Ophelia will form later on Friday and will make landfall along the North Carolina coast on Saturday, September 23.
The Outer Banks remains under Tropical Storm Warning, Storm Surge Watch, High Surf Advisory, and Flood Watch. A Tropical Storm Warning indicates that tropical storm conditions—including sustained winds of 39 mph to 73 mph—are expected within 36 hours or less. A Storm Surge Watch indicates the possibility of life-threatening inundation of water within 48 hours.
Per an update from Dare County Emergency Management Director Drew Pearson, Tropical storm-force winds are expected on Friday and will persist until late Saturday night.
The easterly winds will bring the potential for life-threatening storm surge of 2-4 feet above ground along the oceanfront, while pushing sound waters to the west. The easterly flow is expected to peak sometime late Saturday afternoon into the evening as the storm moves north and the winds shift to the south and southwest. As the shift occurs, it could lead to a quick return of sound water that was pushed west. Should this happen, the potential for soundside flooding will increase. The public can keep an eye on FIMAN to access flood gauge info.
Impacts to N.C. Highway 12 may occur as the combination of high winds, heavy rains, and potential overwash bring hazardous road conditions. Per Pearson, Travel on Saturday should be avoided. Those planning to travel to the Outer Banks on Saturday should consider waiting until Sunday when conditions are forecast to improve.
The Hatteras-Ocracoke, Ocracoke-Swan Quarter, and Ocracoke-Cedar Island ferry operations have been suspended due to deteriorating weather conditions.
Residents and visitors throughout Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands should expect these impacts:
- Life-threatening rip currents and large surf with waves heights of 7-10 feet in the surf zone will result in dangerous conditions along all Outer Banks beaches through the weekend.
- Between 2-4 feet of above-ground storm surge inundation is possible along the oceanfront and soundside. Specific locations and impacts will be driven by wind strength and direction. With the current forecast, the potential for rising water levels should be anticipated at all locations that are susceptible to wind-driven flood impacts. *Details on timing can be found on the National Weather Service Newport/Morehead City, N.C. website by entering your location in the upper left corner and then reviewing the wind direction and intensity on the “Hourly Weather Forecast” found at the bottom right under “Additional Resources.”
- Increasing winds that should peak at 45-55 mph with gusts of up to 70 mph are expected to begin on the evening of Friday, September 22, and continue through the afternoon of Saturday, September 23. Actions should be taken now to secure loose property to keep it from becoming a projectile hazard.
- 4-6 inches of rain with locally higher amounts is forecast, as well as rainfall that could lead to flash flooding and standing water on roadways that may impact travel.
- Potential tornado activity is also possible. Be sure to have multiple ways to receive weather alerts, especially at night.
- Travel on N.C. Highway 12 may be impacted by ocean overwash at vulnerable locations, especially during high tide. Travel on secondary roads throughout Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands that routinely flood during wind-driven events may also become impassable and hazardous.
- Actions should be taken now to protect vehicles and property that are parked or stored in areas that are susceptible to wind-driven flooding countywide. Those who are located in vulnerable oceanfront homes that have the potential to be surrounded by ocean water due to there being no existing dune structure should relocate.
Dare County Emergency Management advises residents and visitors to exercise extreme caution when visiting local beaches and to stay out of the ocean, as current conditions have made ocean swimming unsafe for even the most experienced swimmers.