09/09/05 — Local officials keeping eye on Ophelia

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Local officials keeping eye on Ophelia

By Staff and Wire
Published in News on September 9, 2005 2:03 PM

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Wayne County and Goldsboro officials are keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Ophelia, which was down-graded early today from hurricane status.

Mel Powers, the emergency management coordinator for the county, said local officials are already in contact with state emergency officials regarding the potential danger from Ophelia, which is located off Florida’s eastern coast.

Despite the desire to send aid to the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Powers said Wayne officials recognize the need to stay prepared for potential disaster here.

“We’re monitoring the storm and we’re are involved in conference calls with the state,” Powers said today. “We’re still in the busiest part of the hurricane season.”

Powers said Wayne emergency teams are on 36-hour standby should storm warnings be issued. The county emergency response units can be partially activated within 24 hours, he said.

Goldsboro City Manager Joe Huffman said that although city officials haven’t held any meetings about Ophelia’s threat, he said the city’s emergency staff is prepared to handle pre-storm planning at a moment’s notice.

“Our staff has experience with hurricanes,” said Huffman, “and we are always in a mode where we can respond so that services are not interrupted.”

Ophelia’s path is unpredictable, forecasters say. The storm was drifting away from Florida’s northeast coast today, but that might not be the end of it for the peninsula, Georgia or the Carolinas.

Although Ophelia’s top sustained winds had dropped to 65 mph, some forecast models showed it turning back toward land as a hurricane sometime next week.

“By no means should people take this short-term motion as being let off the hook here,” National Hurricane Center meteorologist Jamie Rhome said. “I don’t want people to say, ’Whew this one’s going out to sea.’ There’s still a possibility that it could loop back.”

Ophelia was nearly stationary about 115 miles east of Daytona Beach. It briefly had been upgraded to a hurricane Thursday when its winds reached 75 mph — 1 mph over the hurricane threshold.