Tropical Storm Ophelia makes NC landfall, brings cooler weather to Lowcountry

The Lowcountry will see the effects of Tropical Storm Ophelia's North Carolina landfall in the form of milder temperatures and breezy conditions.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 11:04 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2023 at 6:16 PM EDT

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Tropical Storm Ophelia nearly reached hurricane strength as it made landfall along the North Carolina coast early Saturday.

The National Hurricane Center confirmed that Ophelia made landfall near Emerald Isle in North Carolina around 6:15 a.m. with estimated maximum winds of 70 mph. Had maximum sustained winds reached 74 mph, it would have made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane.

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The 5 a.m. data from the National Hurricane Center, taken just over an hour before the storm’s landfall, showed the storm 25 miles southwest of Cape Lookout.

For the Lowcountry, Ophelia brought cloudy and breezy conditions, but for the most part, little to no rain, Live 5 First Alert Meteorologist Chris Holtzman said.

“So it was a very close call with this, but it looks like our area managed to get out of the worst of the weather,” he said.

Highs on Saturday will vary from the low to mid-70s east of Interstate 26 to the upper 70s to near 80 west of I-26.

Some spots in Georgetown and Williamsburg Counties may be stuck in the upper 60s, he said.

Temperatures Saturday night will be in the upper 50s and 60s and high pressure could bring another 90-degree day next week, Live 5 First Alert Meteorologist Dorien Minor said.

Sunshine is expected to return to the area Sunday.

As for Ophelia, a turn toward the north is forecast later Saturday, followed by a turn toward the northeast on Sunday. On the forecast track, the center of Ophelia will reach the coast of North Carolina within the next couple of hours, and then move across eastern North Carolina, southeastern Virginia, and the Delmarva Peninsula for the rest of Saturday and Sunday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph with higher gusts. Had that wind speed reached 74 mph, Ophelia would have become a Category 1 hurricane.

Little change in strength is forecast before landfall along the coast of North Carolina. Weakening is expected after landfall through the rest of the weekend, and Ophelia is likely to become an extratropical cyclone Saturday night or Sunday morning.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 310 miles from the center. NOAA buoy 41037 at Wrightsville Beach Offshore recently reported a sustained wind of 37 mph and a gust to 43 mph. A sustained wind of 43 mph and a gust of 53 mph was recently reported near Morehead City, North Carolina.

The estimated minimum central pressure is 997 mb or 28.97 inches based on aircraft reconnaissance data.

Hurricane Nigel moving quickly to the northeast

At 5 a.m., the center of Hurricane Nigel was located near latitude 40.6 North, longitude 47.8 West, or about 495 miles southeast of Cape Race, Newfoundland, Canada. Nigel is moving toward the northeast near 30 mph and this motion is expected to continue the next day or two.

Maximum sustained winds are near 85 mph with higher gusts. Weakening is forecast during the next couple of days, and Nigel is forecast to become a post-tropical cyclone by Friday.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 150 miles.

The estimated minimum central pressure is 977 mb or 28.85 inches.

Tropical Storm Philippe forms in the Central Atlantic

Tropical Storm Philippe was located near latitude 15.6 North, longitude 39.7 West. Philippe is moving toward the west near 14 mph.

Maximum sustained winds are near 40 mph with higher gusts. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 70 miles from the center. The estimated minimum central pressure is 1005 mb or 29.68 inches.

The National Hurricane Center says environmental conditions could help the storm develop into a tropical depression by the weekend or early next week as it moves west at about 10 to 15 mph.

But it is far too early to tell where the system may go or whether it would have any direct impacts on the Lowcountry.