Tropical Storm Ophelia stalled off Florida's Atlantic coast Thursday, churning up waves that caused beach erosion and forcing authorities to close a stretch of coastal road.
The mile-long stretch of beachfront road in Flagler Beach was shut down so transportation workers could shore it up with sand and boulders. Two shelters in Flagler County were being readied as a cautionary measure. In neighboring Volusia County, 12 people were already staying at the county's three shelters.
Downpours from earlier storms had caused flooding in the county, raising anxiety levels about the effects of more rain. Volusia County schools were closed Thursday but would reopen Friday. Ophelia is the 15th named storm of the season. At 2 p.m. EDT, its top sustained winds were 65 mph, but it remained nearly stationary. Forecasters predict it should turn out into the Atlantic over the next few days, but that wasn't a certainty.
A tropical storm warning, meaning winds exceeding 39 mph are possible within 24 hours, was posted for Florida's east coast from Cocoa Beach to Flagler Beach. A tropical storm watch was in effect from Flagler Beach to Fernandina Beach. A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 36 hours. Florida has been hit by six hurricanes in the past 13 months.
This year, Hurricane Dennis hit the Panhandle in July and Hurricane Katrina hit South Florida last month, killing 11 people before destroying New Orleans four days later. Hurricanes Nate and Maria were churning elsewhere in the Atlantic, but neither was considered a threat to the United States. Maria and Nate were the fifth and sixth hurricanes of the Atlantic season, which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Peak storm activity typically occurs from the end of August through mid-September, Guardian Unlimited reports.