Fourth of July beach outings from New England to North Carolina are threatened with rain while fireworks might be hidden by clouds as a line of storms from the west meets Tropical Storm Arthur sweeping up from the south.
Storm Arthur, which is moving up the East Coast and may scrape North Carolina as a hurricane, is expected to block a cold front from the west, bringing rain, thunderstorms and the threat of flooding, the U.S. Weather Prediction Center said.
As Arthur passes, the front will be able to move, and New York City’s weather should start improving in time for the 35th Macy’s fireworks show July 4. About half an inch (1.3 centimeters) of rain will fall in the city, according to the National Weather Service. The record for the date was 1.76 inches in 1981.
“In a nutshell, it will be wet Thursday and Friday and sunny and nice on Saturday,” said Jeffrey Tongue, a weather Service meteorologist in Upton, New York. “I don’t know if it’s hope or optimism that for the fireworks in New York the rain will be out to the east by then.”
Most of the East Coast’s foul weather will come from the front Arthur will block as it moves up the coast. The Fourth of July holiday is traditionally a day of barbecues, beach outings and fireworks displays in cities including New York, Boston and Washington.
AAA projected July 26 that 41 million Americans would travel at least 50 miles over the holiday, 34.8 million of the travelers by car, the most since 2007. The nation’s largest motoring group defines the Independence Day weekend as running from today through July 6.
Severe thunderstorms may break out starting today across the mountains from Maine to North Carolina as the front moves in and rain will spread across much of the region tomorrow, said the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
“That cold front is trying to move through and it can’t move through until the tropical storm moves by,” said Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.
North Carolina’s Outer Banks may be the only part of the coast that takes a direct hit from Arthur, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. The west side of the storm may scrape Dare County, where as many as 300,000 people are expected to be vacationing.
County officials met yesterday to discuss the storm and will decide today if evacuations are needed.
“Unless there’s a forced evacuation, I’m going to stay and enjoy the best weather that you ever get at the beach, which is the day after the hurricane,” said Paul Equale, president of the Washington-based public affairs consulting firm Equale & Associates, who has been at his beach house in Duck, North Carolina, in Dare County. “For some reason the storm blows through and what comes behind is just spectacular weather. It’s like a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode because no one’s here except you and that beautiful weather.”
Hurricane watches and warnings were issued for coastal North Carolina and tropical storm watches were posted from South Carolina to Virginia.
Carolan said Arthur is a lopsided storm with most of its power on its northern and eastern side. If the storm tracks as forecast, only its weakest side will touch the North Carolina coast.
Timing and location will determine the quality of weather on the Fourth of July, he said. The farther south and west, the nicer the weather, Carolan said.
New York will have rain during the day on July 4 with the possibility of improving conditions as the day goes on, Tongue said. The Macy’s fireworks show begins at 9 p.m.
“The rain should be ending by Friday from west to east,” Tongue said. Montauk on eastern Long Island will be the last to clear, he said.
Macy’s will make the final call on its fireworks show based on actual conditions July 4, said Orlando Veras, spokesman for the company.
“Macy’s fireworks can take place in the rain, as they have on numerous occasions in the past,” Veras said in an e-mail interview. “In the event there is severe weather such as lightning, we will work closely with our city agency partners to determine what steps to take, including delaying the launch of the display.”
Washington’s conditions will probably improve earlier than New York’s, Carolan said. As the storm passes, it will pull cooler and drier air in behind it, so by the time fireworks start there temperatures may be in the 60s Fahrenheit (upper teens Celsius) under clearing skies.
Boston, farther to the north and east, will have showers linger longer, Carolan said. The concert by the Boston Pops and the fireworks show scheduled for July 4 was moved up to tomorrow.
Massachusetts law forbids fireworks if winds reach or exceed 20 mph, said Steve MacDonald, spokesman for B4 Productions, which runs the Boston show and concert.’
The weather service said there is a 60 percent chance of gusty thunderstorms in Boston on the Fourth.
On Cape Cod, the part of Massachusetts that juts out into the Atlantic, the popular tourist destination is expected to deal with tropical storm conditions through July 5, according to the weather service.
The Elizabethan Inn, a 78-room hotel on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, was full for the holiday weekend before guests started getting nervous and calling to cancel today, said Suriksha Bhula, assistant manager.
The last time the inn saw a large number of cancellations was in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. State ferry crews stayed at the hotel from when the storm hit in October until Christmas.
For most of the eastern U.S., July 5 will dawn as a nice day and conditions will improve through the rest of the weekend, Carolan said.
Arthur probably won’t damp fuel demand over the July 4 holiday, Michael Green, a spokesman for the Heathrow, Florida-based automobile club AAA, said by telephone from Washington.
“A little rain isn’t going to keep people from going on their trips,” Green said. “You might see a little less driving, but probably not enough to make a huge difference in fuel demand.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Brian K. Sullivan in Boston at firstname.lastname@example.org