RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Tropical Storm Ophelia could form later this evening, affecting Virginia Saturday.
The area of concern near the coast of Georgia is now being classified by the National Hurricane Center as “Potential Tropical Cyclone 16.” This means that the weather system could develop rotation and become a tropical storm in the next 12 to 24 hours.
Ophelia would then continue to move north across the Gulf Stream where water temperatures in the middle 80s would cause the storm to reach winds of 60 mph on Friday.
The storm is expected to make landfall near Morehead City, North Carolina, early Saturday morning. After that, it will likely continue to move northward across eastern North Carolina and then into eastern Virginia, crossing Williamsburg and moving up along Chesapeake Bay Saturday evening.
On Sunday, the storm will likely make a turn to the eastward and head out to sea.
If Tropical Storm Ophelia does form, there will likely be stronger winds across Central Virginia. Areas along and east of Interstate 95 would have stronger winds than those to the west. As of Thursday afternoon, areas west of I-95 are expected to have winds of 15 to 30 mph. Areas east of I-95 are expected to have winds of 30 to 50 mph — potentially damaging wind speeds that could result in power outages.
Significant rainfall will also be a likely result of Ophelia forming. Most of Central Virginia could receive 1 to 3 inches of rainfall during the storm — with even higher amounts along I-95 if Ophelia tracks along the Eastern Shore or Chesapeake Bay.
Ophelia could also cause a storm surge of two to five feet for coastal communities — including the Northern Neck, Virginia’s middle peninsula, lower peninsula and the Tidewater area. The storm surge could also come up the James River, the York River and the Rappahannock River. Those interested in water activities should be very conscious of the risks involved over the next 24 hours.
There will also be potential for tornadoes throughout the region. The probability of tornadoes increases any time a land-falling tropical storm brings enough shear in the air to produce them.
The National Weather Service has issued tropical storm warnings for some of Virginia’s coastal counties. The Outer Banks in North Carolina has also received a tropical storm and a storm surge watch.