Hurricane Arthur gained strength as it bore down on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where some residents and visitors were ordered to evacuate as the Atlantic’s first storm of the season moved north.
Arthur was about 150 miles (240 kilometers) south-southwest of Cape Fear, North Carolina, at 8 a.m. local time with top winds of 80 miles per hour, up from 75 mph earlier, according to a National Hurricane Center advisory.
“Hurricane Arthur is going to greatly affect the Outer Banks of North Carolina,” said Rob Richards, a meteorologist at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. “They could see winds as high as maybe 90 to 95 miles per hour with flooding rainfall.”
Arthur would be the first hurricane to hit the U.S. since 2012. Its northward progress is forecast to block a cold front coming across from the west, touching off thunderstorms, gusting winds and possibly hail along the U.S. East Coast including the cities of New York, Boston and Washington.
Flash flood watches stretch from Maine to Virginia, while hurricane and tropical storm warnings cover the coastline from Virginia to South Carolina. Offshore maritime storm warnings reach from Maine to Florida.
Officials in Dare County, North Carolina, where at least 250,000 vacationers were spending their Fourth of July holiday, issued a mandatory evacuation order for Hatteras Island beginning today. Hyde County officials called for a voluntary evacuation of Ocracoke Island.
The hurricane center said Arthur’s winds and high seas will reach that area today. Storm surge from the hurricane may push the ocean 4 feet (1.2 meters) above normal in some areas, while it drops 4 to 6 inches of rain along the coast. In addition, Arthur may touch off isolated tornadoes.
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared states of emergency throughout coastal areas. The Coast Guard shut the port of Morehead City to inbound traffic.
After Arthur moves across the Outer Banks overnight, it is forecast to speed along the East Coast, bringing tropical storm conditions to Cape Cod in Massachusetts before striking Canada’s Maritime Provinces.
Residents in New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are being told to prepare for the storm, Environment Canada said in a statement. While the track is still uncertain, it is expected Nova Scotia will bear the brunt of the storm’s winds.
This is the third time in the past 20 years hurricanes have formed before the Fourth of July, according to Weather 2000 Inc. in New York.
In a typical season, the first storm to get a name forms by July 9 and the first hurricane occurs by Aug. 10, the hurricane center in Miami said. The six-month Atlantic storm season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, with the statistical peak Sept. 10 and the most activity from mid-August to mid-October.
With assistance from Lynn Doan in San Francisco.