A hurricane warning was issued by U.S. authorities as the season’s first tropical Storm Arthur threatens Fourth of July plans across the eastern seaboard.
Dare County officials ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents and visitors on Hatteras Island shortly after the National Weather Service issued the hurricane warning for Surf City, N.C. north to Duck. A tropical storm watch was in effect for parts of Florida and South Carolina.
The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, Arthur was about 190 miles (305 km) south-southwest of Cape Fear, North Carolina with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said after upgrading its status.
The storm is expected to strengthen, growing into a Category 1 hurricane by Thursday, however, local official believe that it would have little impact on tourism spending. Dave Dawson, owner of the Cape Hatteras Motel on North Carolina’s Hatteras Island, which was in the storm’s path, said he had no cancellations despite predictions of a soaked holiday.
“Most of the calls I am getting are just wanting to make sure they can still come,” Dawson said. “And of course, at this time you don’t know what to tell them.”
The motel Shutters on the Banks was completely booked for the holiday weekend, general manager John Zeller said, despite forecasts for potentially heavy rain, gusty winds and isolated tornadoes late Thursday and Friday.
“We have received some cancellations but not too many,” he said. “Basically we are telling people to kind of wait and see what happens.”
Nevertheless, the officials advise residents and out-of-town visitors who may already have arrived for the Fourth of July weekend, that they should evacuate during daylight hours before the tropical storm brings high winds, rough seas, dangerous rip currents and possible flooding on N.C. 12. The two-lane highway is the only way on and off the island other than ferries to the south.
“I’ve been through Irene. I went through Isabelle,” said Bill Motley, who works at Ace Hardware in Nags Head has lived on the Outer Banks for 13 years. “I’m not even worried about this one. I’m more worried about my tomato plants. With the wind coming, if we get a 50-mph gust, it will knock over my tomato plants.”
Governor Pat McCrory told residents: “Don’t put your stupid hat on.” And he urged surfers and swimmers to avoid the water because of concerns over rip tides.
“Our major goal is to ensure that no lives are lost during this upcoming storm,” he said.
The storm could produce dangerous rip currents along the coasts of several Southern states, forecasters said, dumping up to 2 inches (5 cm) of rain across the Carolinas and causing flooding from storm surge, says Reuters.
The US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a slower than average hurricane season this year, with eight to 13 total named storms, three to six hurricanes, and one or two major hurricanes.