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Tropical Storm Ophelia dashes past New England

Sunday, September 18, 2005

CHATHAM, Mass. -- Tropical Storm Ophelia rushed past southeastern Massachusetts with little effect on Saturday, piling waves 19 feet high well offshore but sparing Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket and Cape Cod from damaging wind and rain.

Meteorologists had predicted wind gusts up to 60 mph, minor flooding on Nantucket and torrential rain on Cape Cod, where about 200 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina are staying. Beachgoers were warned of possible riptides and boat owners secured their craft.

However, the center of Ophelia passed 90 miles south of Nantucket and tropical storm warnings were lifted. The storm was expected to be near or over Nova Scotia during the night, the National Hurricane Center said.

At 5 p.m., Ophelia was centered about 210 miles east-northeast of Nantucket, Mass., and about 205 miles southwest of Halifax, Nova Scotia.

"I'm sure we'll get calls and complaints from people who wanted more, but we're thankful it slid by way off shore," said Mike Jackson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton.

Gentle mist and choppy water were the only signs of Ophelia as people walked on the beach at Chatham.

"We came out with our cameras looking for big waves, but there just aren't any," said Laurie Cuthbertson, 46, who was visiting the Cape with her husband and a friend from Houston.

Ophelia poured 12 to 15 inches of rain on parts of eastern North Carolina during its slow-motion crossing of that state's coast, but the most rainfall on Massachusetts was 3.44 inches in 24 hours at Martha's Vineyard, Jackson said.

Jackson said waves reached 19 feet at the shoals several miles off Nantucket during the night.

No major damage was reported, said Lt. Roger Cadrin of the Hyannis Fire and Rescue Department.

Ophelia formed more than a week ago off the coast of Florida, then wandered on a slow, looping path before running along the coast of North Carolina. That state had extensive beach erosion, power outages and damaged homes and businesses, but nothing as devastating as had been feared.

It was the seventh named hurricane of this year's Atlantic season, which ends Nov. 30.

Elsewhere, another tropical depression had formed in the Atlantic east of the Windward Islands, the hurricane center said. At 5 p.m., it was centered about 290 miles east of Barbados, and was moving northwest at about 9 mph. The system's top sustained wind speed was 35 mph.


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