Hurricane Ophelia was the fifteenth named storm, and the eighth hurricane of 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, forming from non-tropical area of low pressure over the Bahamas in early September. After forming, Ophelia moved very slowly and very erratically, fluctuating between hurricane strength and tropical storm strength on several occasions, while staying offshore the east coast of Florida, but coming very close to the coast of North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane. After skimming North Carolina and the East Coast, Ophelia weakened to a tropical storm for the last time while heading northeast, also becoming extra-tropical as it did so. Ophelia also struck Atlantic Canada as a tropical storm in extra-tropical transition on September 17 and 18. Ophelia caused beach erosion and some damage along the United States East Coast, stretching from Florida to North Carolina (as far as damage comes, although beach erosion likely occurred in locations well away from North Carolina). Ophelia caused $70,000,000 in damage (2005 USD), as well three fatalities; one direct, and two indirect throughout its path.

Ophelia on September 14
Formation September 6, 2005
Dissipation September 23, 2005
Highest winds 85 mph
Lowest pressure 976 mbar
Deaths 1 direct, 2 indirect
Damages $70,000,000,000 (2005 USD)
Areas affected Northeast Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Atlantic Canada

Meteorological History

On September 6, a non-tropical low that was located over the northeastern Bahamas became more organized, gaining enough organization to develop into Tropical Depression Sixteen between Andros and Grand Bahama. Shortly after becoming a depression, the depression moved over Grand Bahama, then it moved north, parallel to the east coast of Florida. At this point, the computer models had difficulty forecasting what the depression would do; some forecast that it would move west over Florida, and move into the Gulf of Mexico, a potentially bad situation, due to the already hurricane-weary Gulf Coast, which had seen the landfalls of hurricanes Cindy, Dennis, and Katrina earlier in the season. Other models predicted that the depression would stay offshore and move to the northeast. The official forecast from the National Hurricane Center followed the first possible scenario, although with very low confidence. Early on September 7, the depression strengthened into Tropical Storm Ophelia. On September 8, Ophelia briefly attained hurricane status. However, between September 9 and September 11, Ophelia fluctuated rapidly in strength, being downgraded to a tropical storm then upgraded to a hurricane three times; it was during this time that Ophelia began to move to the northeast, although in a very slow and erratic direction.

The NHC continued to have difficulty in forecasting Ophelia, with most forecasts calling for a landfall along the East Coast of the United States. Also, some forecasters indicated there was a possibility that Ophelia could strengthen into a Category 3 hurricane, although they felt that this was unlikely. On September 12, Ophelia completed a clockwise loop, then it moved more west-northwest towards North Carolina, still moving very slowly. When the inner core of convection collapsed, Ophelia weakened back to a tropical storm; the weakening could have been caused by cooler water up-welled by Ophelia earlier, since its center moved back over those waters. However, thanks to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream, Ophelia regained hurricane strength once again, soon reaching its peak strength as an 85 mph Category 1 hurricane. Also, it is important to note that after the inner core of convection had collapsed, Ophelia had an unusually large eye of over 115 miles across. The northern and western portions of the eye-wall moved over some coastal areas of North Carolina from September 14 through the 15, although the strongest winds of the hurricane remained offshore, thankfully.

Once Ophelia passed Cape Hatteras, it moved to the east. On September 16, wind shear increased over the system, weakening Ophelia back to a tropical storm for the last time. After this, Ophelia turned to the northeast, brushed Nantucket Island, and approached Nova Scotia on September 17. During this time, Ophelia became extra-tropical, although it maintained its strength as it made landfall in the extreme eastern portion of Nova Scotia. Later that day, Ophelia's extra-tropical remnants passed over southern Newfoundland, and on September 23, the remnants of Ophelia finally dissipated in the North Sea.



In Florida, Ophelia caused a significant coastal erosion event in not only Florida, but in Georgia and South Carolina as well. This was due to the storm's extremely slow speed, which allowed for days over continuously rough surf. In Flagler Beach, Florida, the erosion endangered the foundation of Highway A1A. Because of this threat, 140 dump trucks were sent in to buttress the road with rocks, as well as with sand. Also, a man in southeastern Florida drowned due to high surf generated by Ophelia. This man's death was the only direct death caused by Ophelia, and the first out of three fatalities associated with the storm.

North Carolina

Coastal damage in North Carolina from Ophelia.

In North Carolina, Ophelia dropped more than 10 inches of rain in many coastal areas, due to its extremely slow forward speed. The highest amount of rainfall reported from the storm was in Oak Island, where 17.5 inches of rain were reported. Also, storm surges of 7-12 feet were recorded in some areas of North Carolina, particularly in low-lying inlets of Pamlico Sound. At the peak of Ophelia, over 240,000 customers were without electricity in coastal North Carolina. Also, the damage from Ophelia was the heaviest in Salter Path, as well as along the Outer Banks near that community. There, many buildings suffered significant damage because of Ophelia's storm surge, with damage being described as worse than the damage brought by Hurricane Isabel in 2003, and even being compared to the damage that 1954's Hurricane Hazel caused in the area.

It is important to note, however, that nearly all of the significant damage occurred on the sound side, which is the side facing the mainland. Several piers, as well as many boats were damaged or destroyed by Ophelia's storm surge. On the mainland, damage was generally lighter, and also, overall the structural damage was relatively minor. Also, there was considerable flooding reported in the Wilmington area. Initially, damage was estimated to be at $1.6 billion, although in final analysis it was dropped to $70,000,000. Finally, there was one indirect fatality reported in North Carolina from Ophelia, which is where a person was killed in a traffic accident.

New England and Canada

Damage was minimal in New England and Canada. Also, brief, sporadic power outages were reported. In Nova Scotia, one indirect fatality was reported, due to a person falling off the roof during minor roof repairs. Finally, in Newfoundland, 1.96 inches of rain fell over the eastern portion of the province. Damage in New England and Canada was very minimal.


After the storm, President George W. Bush declared a state of emergency in 37 counties in North Carolina, thanks to the influence of Ophelia.

Naming and Records

When Tropical Storm Ophelia formed on September 7, it was the earliest that the fifteenth named storm of an Atlantic hurricane season had ever formed, beating the previous record held by Hurricane 15 of the 1933 Atlantic hurricane season by 9 days. Although this was the first time an Atlantic storm had received the name Ophelia, it was previously used to name 4 storms in the West Pacific. Due to the minimal damage from Ophelia, the name was not retired by the World Meteorological Organization in the Spring of 2006, thus it is on the list for names to be used in the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season.

See Also

2005 Atlantic hurricane season