UPDATE: She’s Back….Ophelia Regains Punch off Carolina Coast

As they began their day, 110 Gulf state evacuees from Hurricane Katrina were anxiously watching Tropical Storm Ophelia in Wilmington, N.C. as the storm sat offshore.

Well, Ophelia may have some punch left in her, regaining hurricane status early Tuesday evening, with sustained winds reported at 75 mph. The storm has been hanging out in the Atlantic now for several days, giving forecasters their hands full as to where she may finally make landfall.

Annie Anthony, director of the Cape Fear Volunteer Center told the Myrtle Beach Sun-News that evacuees came to the center hoping to find assistance in finding a place to stay. Students at the University of North Carolina Wilmington campus have also been ordered to leave the area until Ophelia passes by.

As the day began, Ophelia was wobbling slowly north-northwestward toward the southeastern united states tropical storm-force winds nearing the Carolina coasts.

The center of Tropical Storm Ophelia was earlier located near latitude 32.5 north, longitude 78.0 west about 120 miles east-southeast of Charleston, S.C. about 125 miles south of Wilmington, N.C.

A hurricane warning remains in effect from the south Santee River, S.C. to Cape Lookout, N.C. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected in the warning area within the next 24 hours.

A hurricane watch and a tropical storm warning remain in effect north of Cape Lookout to Oregon Inlet including the Pamlico Sound and from south of the South Santee River to Edisto Beach, S.C.

A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible in the watch area within the next 36 hr. a tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected in the warning area within the next 24 hours.

Maximum sustained winds are near 75 mph with higher gusts. Some slow strengthening is forecast during the next 24 hours.

Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 160 miles from the center. Ophelia’s strongest winds are located relatively far from the center, roughly 50 to 60 miles and these winds will reach the coastline well in advance of the center.

Storm surge flooding of 4 to 6 feet above normal tide levels, along with large and dangerous battering waves are possible in areas of onshore winds in association with Ophelia. A storm surge of 6 to 8 feet is possible at the heads of bays and rivers.

Ophelia is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 6 to 10 inches over far northeastern South Carolina and eastern North Carolina with possible isolated maximum rainfall amounts of 15 inches over eastern North Carolina.

Isolated tornadoes are possible along the coastal areas of North Carolina later Tuesday and into Wednesday.