CHARLESTON, S.C. – A hurricane watch was posted Saturday for the Southeast coast as Ophelia strengthened into a hurricane once again and meteorologists said its meandering course could take a sharp turn toward land.
A hurricane watch was posted along a 300-mile stretch from the Georgia-South Carolina line to North Carolina’s Cape Lookout, meaning hurricane-force wind of at least 74 mph was possible by this evening, the National Hurricane Center said.
North Carolina’s governor declared a state of emergency as the storm’s track shifted northward with a forecast landfall on the North Carolina coast next week.
The storm wasn’t close enough to North Carolina that a decision had to be made on whether to order evacuations, said Eddie King, Pender County emergency management director.
South Carolina officials said a decision would be made soon about whether to order evacuations, but Charleston County announced it would open shelters Saturday evening for voluntary evacuees from low-lying areas and barrier islands.
The crew of an Air Force hurricane hunter airplane flying through Ophelia measured top sustained wind of 80 mph. It could strengthen a bit before an expected Tuesday landfall, said Eric Blake, a meteorologist at the hurricane center in Miami.
“Almost every (computer) model indicates a United States landfall,” he said. “It’s time to make those preparations.”
At 8 p.m. EDT Saturday, Ophelia was about 200 miles southeast of Wilmington, N.C., and was drifting toward the northeast, but forecasters predicted little movement for the rest of the weekend.