Ophelia Brings Heavy Rains From DC to New York City: Latest Forecast

Heavy rainfall from the remnants of Tropical Storm Ophelia may produce localized flash and urban flooding from Virginia to New Jersey through Sunday as the weather system continues to wind down, forecasters said.

Ophelia, which was downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone, on Saturday delivered high winds that knocked out power for thousands, as well as heavy rains and storm surge that flooded roadways in parts of the Mid-Atlantic.

As of 5 a.m. on Sunday, Ophelia was about 85 miles south of Washington, D.C., and its maximum sustained winds had decreased to 25 miles per hour, the National Hurricane Center said in its final advisory about the storm.

The center said that parts of the Mid-Atlantic to southern New England could still get one to three inches of rain through Sunday night that could lead to flash, urban and small-stream flooding and some isolated river flooding.

Toms River, N.J., reported nearly 3.5 inches of rain through Saturday night, and Cape May Court House, N.J., had nearly three inches, according to the Weather Prediction Center.

In New York City, the Emergency Management Department said it was working with other city agencies to clean catch basins in areas prone to flooding. The department said coastal hazards were expected during high tides through Sunday, including “life-threatening rip currents, large breaking waves and rough surf at Atlantic-facing beaches.”

Nearly 50,000 customers in several states were without power at the peak of the storm on Saturday.

Shawn Hendrix, 46, of Winterville, N.C., noticed his lights flicker, but the roads were more troublesome. He went for a drive in his pickup truck to see the effects of the storm and found most of the streets in his neighborhood underwater.

“It’s really clear water, so it only looks like a few inches deep,” Mr. Hendrix said. “But when we start driving through, we recognized very quickly that it’s a lot deeper than it looks.”

Mr. Hendrix, who said he saw neighbors kayaking across the street, immediately turned around. He made it home safely, crediting his large vehicle, and said he did not plan to venture too far until the floodwaters recede.

“I’ve got 35-inch tires on my truck, and the water was over halfway up my tire,” he said. “So if you drive a small car, you can get in trouble real fast.”

Jonathan Blaes, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh, N.C., said there were several reports of downed trees on Saturday in the Rocky Mount-Wilson area in the northeastern part of the state. In the Raleigh-Durham area, a few cars were stranded in flooded roadways, he said.

In New Jersey, flooded roadways plagued coastal communities, including Brielle, where high tide caused water to gush onto lanes and sidewalks.

Marc Geller, who used to manage the Jaspan True Value hardware store in Manasquan on the Jersey Shore, said that he was “sorry to not be in business” anymore because it seemed the flooding was particularly bad on Saturday, and that would usually mean more customers seeking batteries and flashlights.

In Virginia, the U.S. Coast Guard rescued five people, including three children ages 10, 7 and 4, from an anchored 38-foot catamaran that was caught in weather conditions caused by Ophelia, the Coast Guard said. The boat owner was uncomfortable in the channel because of the storm and requested to be rescued, the Coast Guard said.

The highest local rainfall totals included Cape Carteret, N.C., which had recorded 7.65 inches of rain as of 10 p.m. Saturday, followed by New Bern, N.C., which had 6.61 inches, according to the Weather Prediction Center. Portsmouth, Va., recorded nearly five inches of rain.

The Atlantic hurricane season started on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

There were 14 named storms last year, after two extremely busy Atlantic hurricane seasons in which forecasters ran out of names and had to resort to backup lists. (A record 30 named storms took place in 2020.)

There is consensus among scientists that hurricanes are becoming more powerful because of climate change. Although there might not be more named storms overall, the likelihood of major hurricanes is increasing.

Climate change is also affecting the amount of rain that storms can produce.

Researchers have found that storms have slowed down, sitting over areas for longer, over the past few decades. When a storm slows down over water, the amount of moisture the storm can absorb increases.

Christine Hauser, Eduardo Medina, Derrick Bryson Taylor and Mike Ives contributed reporting.