Tropical Storm Ophelia gained strength as it churned toward the North Carolina coast in the United States on Friday, promising a weekend of heavy rain and windy conditions throughout the mid-Atlantic.
The storm was expected to make landfall in North Carolina on Saturday morning and dump as much as 17.7 centimeters of rain across portions of the state and into southeast Virginia.
The intensifying weather system spun into a tropical storm in the afternoon and by nighttime was producing maximum sustained winds of 113 kilometers per hour, with higher gusts, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.
The storm was not expected to gain further strength before landfall and was forecast to weaken afterward, according to the hurricane center.
Waves break along the jetty at Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach, Virginia, the U.S., September 22, 2023. /AP
The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland declared a state of emergency. Some schools closed early as communities prepared for the storm's arrival, and several weekend events were canceled.
"We are expecting an extended period of strong winds, heavy rainfall, and elevated tides," Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said in an evening statement.
Scientists say climate change could result in hurricanes expanding their reach into mid-latitude regions more often, making storms like this month's Hurricane Lee more common. One study simulated tropical cyclone tracks from pre-industrial times, modern times and a future with higher emissions. It found that hurricanes would track closer to the coasts including around Boston, New York and Virginia and be more likely to form along the Southeast coast.
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