News Column

Hurricane to Give Carolinas a Wet and Windy 4th of July

July 2, 2014

Steve Lyttle, The Charlotte Observer

July 02--A tropical storm warning has been issued for the North Carolina coast, and both tropical storm and hurricane watches are in effect for both Carolinas' coastal areas in advance of Tropical Storm Arthur.

Arthur, with top sustained winds of 60 mph late Wednesday morning, is expected to strengthen to hurricane strength as it moves up the Carolinas coast Thursday and early Friday, during beach resorts' biggest tourist holiday of the year.

The National Hurricane Center said the current forecast track for the storm would keep it off the Carolinas coast, except for a near-miss near Ocracoke Island and nearby areas of the Outer Banks.

As a result, no evacuation orders have been issued so far. But the National Park Service announced it was closing parks and tourist attractions on the Outer Banks and Ocracoke Island until the storm has passed.

High surf and a danger of rip currents is expected to the biggest threat for the Carolinas' coastal areas south of the Jacksonville area.

The tropical storm warning is in effect from Little River Inlet, just south of Sunset Beach in Brunswick County, north to the North Carolina-Virginia border.

The hurricane watch is in effect from Bogue Inlet north to Oregon Inlet and includes Pamlico Sound. Essentially, that is the Outer Banks. The tropical storm watch covers the South Carolina coast.

Emergency management officials in Dare and Hyde counties, along the Outer Banks, said they are watching developments closely. But no evacuations or suspension of ferry service has been announced.

Gov. Pat McCrory is in Wilmington on Wednesday and is expected to discuss preparations for the approaching storm during an early-afternoon news conference.

Officials along the Carolinas coast say they are watching the situation closely, with hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting the beaches for the Independence Day holiday.

The exact track of Arthur will make a big difference in determining whether any evacuations are required, officials said.

In those areas, high surf and dangerous rip tides could be the biggest concern. Emergency management officials, noting that several people died in rip tide incidents last year around the July 4 holiday, are warning people to use caution when entering the Atlantic waters over the next few days.

For example, the resort towns of Sunset Beach and Topsail Beach issued advisories to residents about being careful for rip currents when entering the surf.

At 11 a.m., the center of Tropical Storm Arthur was about 165 miles east-northeast of Cape Canaveral, Fla. The storm had top sustained winds of 60 mph and was moving northward about 6 mph.

Arthur was a ragged-looking storm, with most of the strong winds on the south and east side. Some dry air from the Carolinas was being dragged into the north part of the circulation, but Brennan said computer models indicate Arthur will take on a more typical cyclonic formation during Wednesday.

The S.C. Emergency Management Division said it is at the second of five levels of emergency preparedness. However, the National Hurricane Center's official forecast keeps Arthur about 150 miles off the South Carolina coast as it approaches Thursday.

It is a different story farther to the north, along the Outer Banks. The eye of Arthur could pass close to the Cape Lookout area, according to meteorologists.

Dare County Emergency Management said officials will meet later Wednesday, once they have a better idea of the forecast track of the store. In Hyde County, officials said the center of Arthur is expected to pass just east of Ocracoke Island early on the Fourth of July.

Sarah Johnson, a spokeswoman for Hyde County, said Emergency Services Director Justin Gibbs and County Manager Bill Rich will be updating residents and business owners on any storm-related updates.


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Original headline: Tropical storm warning issued for N.C. coast

Source: (c)2014 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

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