After a day of strengthening on Thursday, Tropical Storm Ophelia weakened considerably overnight on its projected path well north of the Leeward Islands.
Ophelia was barely a tropical storm on Thursday with maximum sustained winds of just 40 mph on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The 15th named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season, meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami have tracked Ophelia since last Friday when it emerged as a low pressure system in association with a tropical wave several hundred miles to the southeast of the Cape Verde Islands.
The storm gained momentum on Wednesday and by Thursday, Ophelia was packing maximum sustained winds of 65 mph.
It's going to keep chugging along for a day or two, NHC spokesman Dennis Felgen said on Thursday. But it's probably strengthened just about as much as it can before it hits some real serious wind problems
According to Friday's 11 a.m. EDT alert from the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Ophelia is moving west-northwest at 16 mph. The storm grew dramatically in size on Wednesday and remains large with tropical-storm-force winds extending outward up to 260 miles from the storm center.
On Thursday, NOAA Buoy 41041 reported a hurricane-force wind gust of 78 mph. However, it looks as though that may be as strong as the storm will get. Ophelia is expected to weaken slightly due to strong upper-level winds.
Located about 635 miles east-southeast of the Leeward Islands, Tropical Storm Ophelia is expected to turn toward the northwest over the next few days as it tracks on a path well north of the Leeward Islands. It is still too soon to say what, if any, impact the storm will have on the United States' East Coast.
Forecasters at the NHC predict that the storm could become a tropical depression over the weekend. By Tuesday, however, Ophelia is predicted to gain strength and reemerge as a tropical storm halfway between Puerto Rico and Bermuda.
There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic, a broad low pressure system located about 385 miles south-southeast of the Cape Verde Islands is producing widespread cloudiness, scattered showers, and a few thunderstorms. Upper-level winds are conducive for some slow development of the disturbance over the next few days as it moves west at 15 mph.
Ophelia is the 15th named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season. With over two months left and 15 named storms already, it's turning out to be the atypically busy year that forecasters had predicted