Hurricane Arthur is hitting the U.S. East Coast on Friday, the Fourth of July holiday, leaving close to 22,000 without power in North Carolina and strengthening to a Category 2 hurricane.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said that Arthur has grown to speeds of 100 mph, and reached land late on Thursday, between Cape Lookout and Beaufort, North Carolina. Duke Energy has said that more than 22,000 people have been left without power in the area.
"We're most concerned about flooding inland and also storm surges in our sounds and our rivers further inland," North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said Thursday.
Weather.com reported that the potential storm surge forecast is of three to five feet above ground in eastern North Carolina. Eleven counties have so far declared a State of Emergency, including Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Hyde, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender and Tyrrell.
Hurricane warnings extend south from the Virginia/North Carolina border to Surf City, North Carolina. A tropical storm warning stretches to southeast Virginia, including Wilmington and Virginia Beach.
The storm threatens to disrupt weekend plans for many celebrating America's Independence Day. Tourism officials expected at least 250,000 people to travel to the Outer Banks for the holiday weekend, The Associated Press noted. About 57,000 permanent residents live at the Banks, which are a 200-mile string of narrow barrier islands.
Arthur is the first named storm of the Atlantic season, and has prompted a tropical storm watch as far as Nova Scotia in Canada.
"We are closely monitoring the track of the storm and prepositioning search and rescue personnel, National Guardsmen and equipment in areas where we expect the greatest impact," said Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. "Our priority is to provide for the safety of all first responders and the general public for the duration of the event."
The N.C. Department of Transportation (DOT) has added that it is monitoring conditions and has equipment and crews in place along the North Carolina coast ready to respond to Hurricane Arthur.
"Right now our crews are in place and ready to deploy once conditions allow for recovery efforts to begin," Secretary Tony Tata said. "I encourage people to stay off of the roads throughout the duration of the storm and use caution once it has cleared. We will work to open the roads and resume ferry operations as quickly as possible."
On Thursday evening, Governor McCrory encouraged residents and tourists to stay inside and wait out the storm.
"Please be safe inside your home, and stay inside your home," he said, according to WAVY.com.