09/12/05 — Fickle Ophelia hangs off N.C. coast

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Fickle Ophelia hangs off N.C. coast

By Wire
Published in News on September 12, 2005 1:52 PM

WILMINGTON — Coastal residents took precautions as Hurricane Ophelia sat nearly stationary off the coast on Monday, its outer bands of rain not quite reaching land.

The devastation caused elsewhere by Hurricane Katrina was on the mind of Steve King as he grudgingly skipped a football game on television to move his sea kayak out of harm’s way.

“They keep saying this storm is two or three days out,” he said. “I think we’re all waiting for something to happen.”

Ophelia was more than 200 miles from Wilmington today with sustained wind of 75 mph, strong enough to be classified a hurricane. A tropical storm warning and a hurricane watch were in effect from Cape Lookout south to Edisto Beach, S.C., the National Hurricane Center said.

Concerned about possible coastal flooding, Gov. Mike Easley ordered 200 National Guard soldiers to report to staging centers in eastern North Carolina. The governor also ordered a mandatory evacuation of nonresidents from fragile Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks, reachable only by ferry.

At Wrightsville Beach, lifeguards ordered swimmers out of the surf Sunday.

“They are saying they don’t want anyone to even touch the water,” said Kathy Carroll, 37, of Wilmington. “Now I know how a flounder feels. I was getting tossed all over the place.”

Despite the warnings, there were no long lines at Roberts Grocery in Wrightsville Beach, where customers bought chips and beer — not bottled water and batteries.

With a history of destructive storms, New Hanover County has a well-rehearsed disaster plan. But Katrina, which was a powerful Category 4 hurricane before it made landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi, was on residents’ minds even though Ophelia was only Category 1 and had been waxing and waning in strength.

“If it was a Category 4 barreling down here, I would get out if I had a chance,” Lee said. “The structures just can’t take that kind of wind. We’re cautiously watching (Ophelia). We’re not giving up until it’s north of us.”