Hurricane Ophelia sat nearly stationary off the coast of the Carolinas on Sunday, taunting coastal residents made wary by the destruction that Katrina caused along the Gulf Coast.
The storm was more than 200 miles from land with sustained wind of 80 mph, but it was piling up heavy waves that challenged surfers and pounded the beaches. A hurricane watch remained in effect from just north of Edisto Beach, S.C., to North Carolina's Cape Lookout, a stretch of more than 250 miles.
Warning of the possibility of coastal flooding, Gov. Mike Easley (D) sent 200 National Guard soldiers to staging centers in eastern North Carolina and ordered a mandatory evacuation of tourists from fragile Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks, reachable only by ferry or plane.
Near Wilmington at Wrightsville Beach, lifeguards with megaphones ordered swimmers out of the water.
Some people stocked up on groceries during the weekend even though Wilmington, on the southeast North Carolina coast, had breezy, partly cloudy weather, said Warren Lee, emergency management director for New Hanover County.
By 5 p.m., Ophelia was centered 250 miles east-southeast of Charleston, S.C., and about 255 miles south of Cape Hatteras with maximum sustained wind of 80 mph, the National Hurricane Center said. It had meandered slightly but essentially was stationary after following a wandering course since it became a tropical storm Wednesday off the coast of Florida. Little overall movement was expected before Monday morning, the hurricane center said.
Once the storm starts moving, the latest forecast track indicated the eye could come ashore southeast of Cape Lookout and cross Pamlico Sound on the central coast, said meteorologist Gil Wagi at the National Weather Service office in Newport. A front approaching from the west could push the storm away from the coast, but the likelihood of that was uncertain, he said.