What Tropical Storm Ophelia lacked in wind speed, it made up for in size. Although Ophelia was not a hurricane, its reach was impressive, delivering gale-force winds Saturday from North Carolina to Long Island, New York.
The National Weather Service described the storm as typical for a tropical system, often very large with multiple bands of wind. Ophelia’s southern band piled into North Carolina’s Outer Banks, the Delmarva peninsula and the lower Chesapeake, while its northern band unloaded on the south shore of Long Island and coastal New Jersey.
“The size can be pretty impressive,” a meteorologist in the Baltimore/Washington forecast office of the National Weather Service said. “It really puts it into perspective.”
At 7:44 p.m., the National Hurricane Center said that Ophelia had slowed to become a tropical depression, which is a weak form of a tropical storm, and all storm surge and tropical storm warnings had been discontinued.
A tremendous amount of rain came with the storm, soaking coastal areas and raising the risk of tidal flooding. A flood watch is in effect from 8 p.m. Saturday until 8 a.m. Sunday for the Interstate 95 corridor from Fredericksburg, Virginia, to Baltimore, with 2 to 4 inches of rain expected overnight.
A wind advisory was in effect Saturday until 8 p.m. for most of Maryland, the District of Columbia and northern Virginia, with northeast winds of 20-25 mph and gusts up to 45 mph.
The massive storm system made landfall in North Carolina early Saturday, just south of the Outer Banks, moving northward toward eastern Virginia and Maryland as it lost strength.
Baltimore avoided the brunt of the storm, although Ophelia made for blustery conditions Saturday afternoon.
Gov. Wes Moore issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency Friday evening. The order enables the Maryland Department of Emergency Management and other agencies to coordinate with local governments on a storm response.
Mayor Brandon Scott designated the Robert C. Marshall Recreation Center at 1201 Pennsylvania Ave. as an emergency shelter from Saturday at 2 p.m. until Sunday at 8 a.m. The city’s office of Homeless Services assisted residents in need of transportation to the shelter.
City officials also made available three parking garages at 805 S. Caroline St., 501 S. Eden St. and 400 S. Central Ave. (Little Italy) for those in flood-prone areas wishing to move their vehicles. Parking in those garages will be free until 7 a.m. Monday.
BOPA announced Artscape will continue Sunday.
As Ophelia approached Maryland, life went on in flood-prone downtown Annapolis on Saturday afternoon, with visitors strolling the streets and popping into businesses that mostly remained open.
A few businesses were closed, and some had white sandbags ready to deploy to protect their buildings if the flooding comes. Water taxi service was suspended for the day.
The bar was full at McGarvey’s, a tavern steps away from the water at Annapolis City Dock.
”We’re known as a place that, if there’s bad weather, you’re going to come. It’s a gathering spot,” said Forest Landa, McGarvey’s bar manager.
McGarvey’s is ever-so-slightly uphill from the water, so it’s usually spared the nuisance flooding that comes with regular storms. Landa is hoping flooding stays away this time, too.
The tavern intends to remain open until closing time at 2 a.m. Sunday, provided there are customers to serve and it’s safe.
”We’re just kind of waiting it out to see what happens, honestly,” Landa said.
Closer to the water, the crew at Pip’s Dock Street Dogs wasn’t too worried about the storm.
”I mean, really, there’s not a whole lot we can do,” owner Ryan Lamy said. “We can put out sandbags, but with some of these old buildings, even that doesn’t really help that much, because the water will come under some of the walls or come up through the floor drains.”
Lamy planned to move equipment and food to higher shelves or further in the back of the shop. He’s hopeful that recently announced plans for redoing the dock area with better flood mitigation features will help. But for now he’s prepared to deal with whatever comes with this latest storm.
”High tide comes in and it floods. High tide rolls out and it recedes,” Lamy said. “And there’s really nothing more we can do.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article.