CHARLESTON, S.C. — Tropical Storm Arthur strengthened Wednesday and was forecast to grow into a hurricane by the Fourth of July, taking aim at North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a popular getaway spot of thin barrier islands along the shore.
The approaching storm was already having an impact on the East Coast. In Boston, the annual July 4th Boston Pops concert and fireworks display was advanced by a day to Thursday evening because of the threat of severe weather Friday from the strom.
The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season prompted a hurricane warning for a wide swath of the North Carolina coast and had officials, hotel owners and would-be vacationers as far north as New England carefully watching forecasts.
Arthur was about 220 miles south of Charleston and moving north about 7 mph with maximum sustained winds of 60 mph, late Wednesday afternoon. The National Hurricane Center predicted it would grow to a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of at least 74 mph either late Wednesday or sometime Thursday.
The forecast did not call for a landfall in the U.S., but officials and travelers north to New England kept an eye on the storm’s projected path. Many areas warned of upcoming rain, wind and potential rip tides.
Forecasters said Arthur was becoming better organized but is likely to stay just offshore, passing well to the east of northeastern Florida on Wednesday night and moving parallel to the southeastern U.S. coast, becoming a hurricane by Thursday but losing much of its punch by Saturday morning..
The worst of the storm should occur at Cape Hatteras, N.C., about dawn Friday, with 3 to 5 inches of rain and sustained winds up to 85 mph, said Tony Saavedra, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. The storm should move through quickly and be off the coast of New England later in the day, perhaps making landfall in Canada’s maritime provinces as a tropical storm.
The center’s experimental storm surge map shows the potential for up to 3 feet of flooding in many areas of northwest Florida and Georgia east of Interstate 95. From the Wilmington, N.C. area along the fragile barrier islands, storm surges could be as much as 6 feet in some areas.
Arthur’s maximum sustained winds were recorded at 60 mph. The storm has picked up speed and is now moving north at 7 mph. Forecasters expect the storm to become a hurricane with winds at or exceeding 74 mph before midnight Thursday.
The hurricane center predicts a turn to the north-northeast Wednesday night followed by a turn toward the northeast and an increase in forward speed Thursday.
“I think everybody’s keeping one eye on the weather and one eye on the events this weekend,” said President Joe Marinelli of Visit Savannah, the Georgia city’s tourism bureau.