Parts of coastal North Carolina and Virginia have experienced flooding after Tropical Storm Ophelia made landfall near a North Carolina barrier island, bringing rain, damaging winds and dangerous surges.
The storm came ashore near Emerald Isle with near-hurricane-strength winds of 113 kph, but winds weakened as it travelled north with the centre of the storm crossing into Virginia by evening, the US National Hurricane Center said.
Ophelia is expected to sweep northeast Sunday along the mid-Atlantic coast to New Jersey.
Videos from social media showed riverfront communities in North Carolina such as New Bern, Belhaven and Washington experiencing significant flooding.
Tens of thousands of homes and businesses remained without electricity across several eastern counties as of Saturday afternoon, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks utility reports. A Duke Energy map showed scattered outages across much of eastern North Carolina, as winds toppled tree limbs and snagged power lines.
Brian Haines, a spokesperson for the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management, said there were also reports of downed trees, but no major road closings.
"North Carolina Emergency Management continues to monitor the situation and to work with our county partners, who are currently not reporting any resource needs," Haines said Saturday morning.
A storm surge warning, indicating danger from rising ocean water pushed inland by Ophelia, was in effect from Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina, to Colonial Beach, Virginia.
Five people, including three children 10 or younger, needed the Coast Guard's help on the water when conditions worsened on Friday. They were aboard a12-metre catamaran anchored off Cape Lookout, North Carolina, stuck in choppy water with strong winds.
In a nighttime rescue mission, the crew used flares to navigate to the five people, then helped them aboard and left the sailboat behind. A Coast Guard helicopter lit up the path back to the station.
At the southern tip of North Carolina's Outer Banks, Carl Cannon Jr. said he hopes he can salvage some of this weekend's long-running Beaufort Pirate Invasion, a multiday event remembering the 1747 Spanish attack on the town. He said three ships battle it out and attack the shore, and "Blackbeard" even gets beheaded (though the real-life pirate was actually killed decades before the Spanish attack).
But the storm's winds tore down the big tent for a banquet that was planned for Saturday, and several other tents were damaged or shredded. Cannon Jr. worries the financial hit will be significant, even with people helping to clean up and offering to run online fundraisers.
The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland each declared a state of emergency on Friday.
Scientists say climate change could result in hurricanes expanding their reach into mid-latitude regions more often, making storms like this month's Hurricane Lee more common.
One study simulated tropical cyclone tracks from pre-industrial times, modern times and a future with higher emissions. It found that hurricanes would track closer to the coasts, including around Boston, New York and Virginia, and be more likely to form along the Southeast coast.
Australian Associated Press