(CNN) — Ophelia made landfall near Emerald Isle, North Carolina, on Saturday morning as a strong tropical storm and will now head inland and up the East Coast, delivering heavy rain, strong winds and coastal flooding well beyond its center.
The storm roared ashore with 70 mph sustained winds – just shy of hurricane strength. Tropical-storm force winds extend up to 310 miles from Ophelia’s core and had knocked out power to at least 50,000 homes and businesses across North Carolina and Virginia by early Saturday, according to utility tracking site PowerOutage.us.
The storm will weaken as it moves farther inland, but power outages could grow as it affects more areas.
Ophelia is on track to move across eastern North Carolina and then travel through southeastern Virginia, before heading farther north across the Delmarva Peninsula on Saturday and Sunday, the National Hurricane Center said.
The storm’s shield of rain extends hundreds of miles from its center and is already dumping heavy rain across a large swath of the mid-Atlantic, including Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York.
But coastal areas in North Carolina are bearing the brunt of impacts as the center of the expansive storm barges into the state.
Storm surge flooded coastal areas and inlets in North Carolina overnight and winds gusting to 73 mph hit Cape Lookout, along the state’s Outer Banks.
The flooding began on Friday, when roads were submerged in communities along North Carolina’s coast. In coastal Cedar Island, water collected on Highway 12, though it was open and passable, the state transportation department said.
“But please don’t go out tonight unless you absolutely have to. There is sand and water on the roadway, and it’s dark and stormy,” the department said in a social media post.
In New Bern, which sits along two rivers in North Carolina about 120 miles east of Raleigh, roads were flooded and water creeped inland as the levels rose in the downtown area, city officials said on Facebook. Photos posted on the city’s page show a flooded children’s park and ducks floating down the street on floodwaters.
Water levels also rose overnight in the Chesapeake Bay, along the coasts of Virginia and Maryland.
Ahead of the storm, states of emergency were declared in Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland, warning residents to take precautions.
“If you can avoid driving or being out during the storm please do so. We are expecting an extended period of strong winds, heavy rainfall, and elevated tides,” Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said.
Ophelia will deliver several key threats through the weekend:
Heavy Rainfall: Some places in eastern North Carolina and southeast Virginia could see between 3 and 5 inches of rain, with others seeing up to 7 inches, through Sunday morning. Other states in the Mid-Atlantic could pick up 2 to 4 inches on rain Saturday night through Sunday. Meanwhile, 1 to 3 inches of rain are forecast across southern New York through southern New England beginning Saturday into Monday.
Coastal Threats: One to 6 feet of storm surge is possible in some coastal areas, particularly in inlets and rivers from around Surf City, North Carolina, to Manasquan Inlet on the New Jersey shore. Storm surge flooding could peak Saturday afternoon with another high tide, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay.
The storm will also bring dangerous surf and rip currents along East Coast through the weekend, the hurricane center warned.
Strong and Gusty winds: Tropical-storm-force wind gusts – between 39 and 73 mph – will impact a wide area of the East Coast throughout the day Saturday. Winds will lessen with time, but stronger gusts could down trees and power lines.
Severe weather: A few tornadoes also are possible in parts of the coastal mid-Atlantic.
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