September 11, 2005

Hurricane Ophelia threatens North Carolina

MIAMI, Sept 11 - Hurricane Ophelia hovered off the coast of
the southeastern United States on Sunday and could hit North
Carolina later in the week, forecasters said.

But forecasters at the U.S. National Hurricane Center in
Miami cautioned that Ophelia's path was unusually hard to
project because the storm was not moving.

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of
emergency on Saturday and local officials issued a mandatory
evacuation order for non-residents on the low-lying vacation
island of Ocracoke on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

A hurricane watch was in effect from Edisto Beach, South
Carolina, north to Cape Lookout, North Carolina, cautioning
millions of residents that fierce winds and other hurricane
conditions were possible within 36 hours.

At 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), the storm's center was 255 miles

south of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Ophelia had top
sustained winds of 85 mph (136 kph) and was not expected to
strengthen much or even move much in the next two days, the
hurricane center forecasters said.

They expected the hurricane to eventually move north and
hit North Carolina on Wednesday or Thursday.

Ophelia was a Category 1 hurricane on the five-step
Saffir-Simpson scale, meaning it could be accompanied by a 4-
to 5-foot (1- to 1.5-meter) storm surge. Such storms can flood
coastal roads and damage piers, trees and unanchored mobile
homes but rarely cause structural damage.

Hurricane Katrina was a far more powerful Category 4 storm
when it hit the U.S. Gulf coast before devastating much of
Louisiana and Mississippi.

More than 3,000 tourists and 800 residents were on Ocracoke
Island, which is reachable only by boat or plane, according to
Hyde County Emergency Management Coordinator Tony Spencer.

"The evacuation is going orderly, but a lot of folks don't
understand the logistics of needing to evacuate early," Spencer
told Reuters by telephone from the island.

No other North Carolina county was under an evacuation
order, a spokeswoman for the state Emergency Management Center