Hurricane Ophelia weakened on Friday morning as the storm began to meander slowly north-northeast at 6 mph. Ophelia’s position was latitude 29.3 north, longitude 79.1 west, 115 miles east of Daytona Beach, Fla. A turn to the northeast is expected during the next 24 hours.
In its 5 a.m. bulletin the National Hurricane Center in Miami said as Ophelia began to move her winds dropped below hurricane force, to 65 mph, with higher gusts. Forecasters warned the drop in speed could only be temporary and that the storm could regain strength during the next 24 hours.
A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the east coast of Florida from Sebastian Inlet northward to Flagler Beach. A tropical storm watch is in effect from north of Flagler Beach to Fernandina Beach. HNC warned coastal areas north of Ophelia through the Carolinas to monitor the progress of Ophelia in case the storm turns in their direction.
Additional rainfall accumulations of up to 1 inch are possible over coastal sections of central and north Florida, with a high risk of dangerous rip currents in coastal warning area north to the Carolinas.
Ophelia had stalled 70 miles off the northeast Florida coast Thursday, churning waves that caused beach erosion and drenching Kennedy Space Center.
Thursday evening, Ophelia had top sustained winds of 75 mph, just over the threshold to be classified as a hurricane, forecasters at the National Hurricane Center said.
If it hits Florida, Ophelia would be the third hurricane to strike the state this year and the seventh in the last 13 months.
Downpours from earlier storms had caused flooding in Flagler County, raising anxiety levels about the effect of more rain. Authorities shut down a mile-long stretch of beachfront road in Flagler Beach so transportation workers could shore it up with sand and boulders.
“The storm is eating up our dunes,” Carl Laundrie, communications manager for Flagler County told the Miami Herald.
Two shelters in Flagler County were readied as a precaution. In neighboring Volusia County, 12 people had already moved into the county’s three shelters.
“In reaction to Katrina, we wanted to be extremely proactive,” Dave Byron, spokesman for Volusia County said. Volusia County schools were closed Thursday.
Ophelia is the 15th named storm and the seventh hurricane of the Atlantic season, which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. The season’s peak typically occurs from the end of August through mid-September.
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