By Zach Butler, Meteorologist Posted 2 months ago September 21, 2023

Soon to Be Tropical Storm Ophelia Impacts the East Coast

A sub-tropical storm has been developing off the Carolina coast this past week and will likely develop into Tropical Storm Ophelia and move inland along the East Coast starting on Friday, September 22nd. The soon to be Tropical Storm Ophelia will bring heavy rain, storm surge, strong winds, and severe storms on Friday and through the weekend. 

This sub-tropical storm has gained strength and moisture due to warm waters off of the Carolina coast and tropical moisture from the Caribbean. A slight dip in the jet stream along with storm strengthening will move and develop into a Tropical Storm along the East Coast and into inland areas over the coming days.

Below is the National Hurricane Center's (NHC) latest forecast as of Thursday evening, September 21st.

This storm will be a slow mover over the coming days due to a dip and weakening of the jet stream to the west. Let's take a look at the timeline ahead and what the effects will be through the East Coast.

Friday, September 22nd 

Heavy rain bands will move inland through North Carolina, Virginia, and the Chesapeake Bay area, which will cause localized flash flooding. Additionally, there will be a tornado threat with some storms and this threat will increase the closer you get to the coast and center of the storm.

Tropical Storm Warnings have been posted by the National Weather Service along the coast with wind speeds of 39-57 mph. Rain will be heavy with rates exceeding 1in/hr in some storms. See the bottom of this timeline for the latest rainfall amounts.

Storm Surge Warnings have been posted with the potential for 2-4 feet
above ground somewhere within surge prone areas. 

Saturday, September 23rd

The center of the Tropical Storm will move inland through North Carolina early on Saturday as rain bands continue to move north through West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and southern New England.

Winds will continue to be strong along the coast and inland through North Carolina and Virginia. Gusty winds will extend with the rain bands to the north as well. Some tornadoes are still possible around coastal areas.

Sunday, September 24th 

The storm will degrade to a post-tropical storm early Sunday and curve back to the coast. Rain bands will deteriorate but there is a lot of model uncertainty regarding how much and where this will happen. Rain will clear North Carolina, Virginia, and the Chesapeake Bay area but continue to fall further north. Localized flash flooding will continue to be a threat but tornados should finally be out of the picture. 

Total rainfall amounts will be 2-6 inches throughout the East Coast with localized amounts exceeding 6 inches. Below is a look at the ECMWF (Euro-Left) and GFS (Right) model's prediction of precipitation amounts from Friday, September 22nd through Monday morning, September, 25th. 

Widespread rainfall totals in excess of 3 inches is likely with some areas approaching over 6 inches. A closer look at Virginia Beach using the Forecast Anywhere tool shows the wind and rain threat on Friday and Saturday. 

Wind gusts will be over 40 mph and the rainfall totals are forecasted to be 3.8 inches in Virginia Beach! Saturday rainfall totals are shown above. 

Flooding will be a concern for areas that see heavy rain and slow-moving rain bands. Despite the flooding concern, some of this rain will bring much-needed drought relief to areas of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania.

This soon to be Tropical Storm Ophelia will bring life-threatening conditions to areas of the East Coast but also much-needed drought relief.

If you live in or are spending time along the East Coast or Blue Ridge Mountains this weekend, be sure to review our Flash Flood Safety Article. In addition, you can use our interactive Radar and Forecast Radar to track showers and thunderstorms in real-time. 

Zach Butler 

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About The Author

Zach Butler


Zach Butler is currently a PhD student in Water Resources Science at Oregon State University. He just finished his master's in Applied Meteorology at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire. Originally from Maryland, he has grown up hiking and skiing up and down the East Coast. When not doing coursework, he enjoys cooking and exploring the pacific northwest on his bike.

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