Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Ophelia becomes a hurricane--again

Residents warned to prepare as outer bands lash Carolina coast
North Carolina's governor urged residents of low-lying areas and coastal islands to head for safety Tuesday as Hurricane Ophelia methodically churned toward the state's southeastern corner with heavy rains and strong winds.
The fickle, slow-moving storm reached hurricane intensity again Tuesday evening after reconnaissance aircraft measured 75 mph winds, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.
The storm's outer bands were lashing the coast between Charleston and Wilmington Tuesday evening.
During the past week, Ophelia has wobbled four times between hurricane and tropical storm status as it moved erratically up the East Coast, making three loops along the way.
At 8 p.m., the center of Ophelia was 105 miles east of Charleston, South Carolina, and 110 miles south of Wilmington, North Carolina. The storm was moving north-northwest at 3 mph.
Wilmington, the largest city on the North Carolina coast, is expected to start feeling hurricane force winds of at least 74 mph early Wednesday.
The University of North Carolina Wilmington and East Carolina University in Greenville canceled classes for Wednesday.
Ophelia's strongest winds were relatively far from the center -- 50 to 60 miles -- and will reach the coast well ahead of the center of the storm, according to the hurricane center.
The hurricane's center is forecast to make landfall later Wednesday afternoon north of Wilmington before turning slightly east and moving across the lower Outer Banks, though the storm has been difficult to predict.
North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley warned residents along the coast to prepare for a storm that could cause several days of widespread flooding, blocked roads and power outages.
"If you live in low-lying areas, flood-prone areas -- you know where they are -- you need to get out," Easley said.


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