- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 10, 2005

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — A hurricane watch was posted yesterday for the Southeast coast as Ophelia strengthened into a hurricane once again and meteorologists said its meandering course could take a sharp turn toward land.

A hurricane watch was posted along a 300-mile stretch from the Georgia-South Carolina state line to North Carolina’s Cape Lookout, meaning hurricane-force wind of at least 74 mph was possible by this evening, the National Hurricane Center said.

Officials in Charleston County, S.C., announced they would open shelters yesterday evening for voluntary evacuees from low-lying areas and barrier islands.

“We don’t think it’s a done deal yet,” said Joe Farmer, a spokesman for the South Carolina Emergency Management Division. “It’s moving really slow, so we have to hang with it. But there is some expectation it will move toward the coast.”

Emergency-management directors along the North Carolina coast said they were prepared for Ophelia and warned residents not to be complacent.

The crew of an Air Force hurricane hunter airplane flying through Ophelia measured top sustained wind of 80 mph. It could strengthen a bit before an expected landfall tomorrow, said Eric Blake, a meteorologist at the hurricane center in Miami.

“Almost every (computer) model indicates a United States landfall,” he said. “It’s time to make those preparations.”

Ophelia already was contributing to rough surf along the coast.

If Ophelia makes landfall in South Carolina it would the third hurricane in 13 months to strike the state. Hurricanes Charlie and Gaston hit the South Carolina coast last season in the same area.

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