Tropical Storm Arthur strengthened and will probably grow into a hurricane in the next two days threatening North Carolina’s Outer Banks, where at least 250,000 tourists are visiting for the Fourth of July holiday.
The storm was 90 miles (145 kilometers) east-southeast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, with maximum winds of 50 miles per hour, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said in an advisory at 8 p.m. local time. Tropical storm watches were posted earlier today for Florida’s eastern coast from Fort Pierce to Flagler Beach and additional warnings may be needed as far north as Virginia.
“Strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours and Arthur is expected to become a hurricane by Thursday,” the NHC said in the advisory.
Arthur is the first named system of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. Its winds are expected to peak at 90 mph, making it a Category 1 storm on the five-step Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale, in the next three days, the center said.
The system will probably pass over or near Dare County, in easternmost North Carolina, early on July 4. Officials met today to discuss what action to take and decided to regroup tomorrow because the forecast remains “uncertain,” a notice on the county website shows.
“If evacuation is required, that would occur on Thursday,” Bobby Outten, Dare County’s manager, said by phone. “We’re in the throes of our season, we’ve got about 250,000 to 300,000 visitors down here at this time of year.”
Outten said he doubted a countywide evacuation would be needed. The region is well equipped to move people in and out, he said.
“We evacuate every Saturday,” Outten said. “All our visitors leave in the morning and new ones come in on Saturday afternoon. This would be much the same thing, if we are required to do that.”
One to 3 inches (2.5 to 8 centimeters) of rain are expected to fall across central Florida, while parts of the Bahamas may get as much as 6 inches before the system tracks north, the hurricane center said.
Tropical storm-strength winds have been reported in the Bahamas and are expected to strike central Florida later, the center said.
Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest utility and a unit of NextEra Energy Inc. (NEE), has spent $1.5 billion to strengthen its grid against storms since two hurricanes struck in 2004, Bill Orlove, a spokesman, said in a phone interview. Hurricanes Charley and Frances combined that year to cause $15 billion in damage in the U.S., mostly in Florida, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
After Arthur passes the Outer Banks, it will move northeast during the day on July 4, blocking a cold front coming across the U.S. That means Boston should receive some heavy rain, said Rob Carolan, the owner of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.
In New York, showers and thunderstorms are expected to develop late tomorrow and into July 3, a combination of the cold front slowly approaching and tropical moisture streaming in from Arthur. New York has a 50 percent chance of rain on July 4, Joe Pollina, a weather service meteorologist based in Upton, New York, said by phone today.
“It would mainly be from the cold front,” he said. “Arthur is going to be somewhere in the southeast or Mid-Atlantic region by then, well to our south.”
In the Pacific, the hurricane center is also monitoring Tropical Storm Douglas, which isn’t a threat to land, and Tropical Storm Elida, which is bringing heavy rains and high surf to western Mexico.
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