Hurricane Arthur made landfall near the southern end of North Carolina’s Outer Banks Thursday night, packing maximum sustained winds of 100 mph as it threatened weekend plans along the eastern seaboard.
The storm, which strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane earlier Thursday evening, reached land about 11:15 p.m. between Cape Lookout and Beaufort, North Carolina, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
By early Friday morning, Arthur was located about 40 miles (60 kilometers) north-northeast of Cape Lookout and about 40 miles west-southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It was moving northeast at 18 mph (30 kph).
Thousands of vacationers in North Carolina were forced to flee the coast as heavy rains and winds were expected to pound the state’s popular and flood-prone Outer Banks into Friday. The Banks, a 200-mile string of narrow barrier islands, is home to about 57,000 permanent residents.
Hurricane Arthur was expected to weaken as it travels northward and slings rain along the East Coast. The annual Boston Pops Fourth of July concert and fireworks show was rescheduled for Thursday because of potential heavy rain from Arthur, while fireworks displays in New Jersey, Maine and New Hampshire were postponed until later in the weekend.
Before the storm hit, tourism officials had expected 250,000 people to travel to the Outer Banks for the holiday weekend. Gov. Pat McCrory warned people not to risk their safety by trying to salvage their barbecues and pre-paid beach vacations.
“Don’t put your stupid hat on,” McCrory said Wednesday, urging swimmers and surfers to avoid the water regardless of how good the waves might look. McCrory also declared a state of emergency for 25 coastal and adjoining counties.
“Our major goal is to ensure that no lives are lost during this upcoming storm,” including those of emergency workers, McCrory said.
But the next day, even as the storm gathered strength, McCrory said: “Of course, this holiday weekend, the July 4th weekend, is one of the biggest weekends for coastal tourism in the state, and we anticipate a beautiful weekend after the Tropical Storm Arthur or the Hurricane Arthur is out of North Carolina.”
Tropical storm warnings were also in effect for coastal areas in South Carolina and Virginia and as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
The storm was enough of a concern that officials in Boston decided to move the annual Boston Pops July 4th concert and fireworks show up by a day because of potential heavy rain Friday night, and rip tides were a threat as far north as New Jersey.
Had Arthur made landfall in the U.S. on Friday, it would have been the first hurricane to do so on July Fourth, according to National Hurricane Center research that goes back to the 1850s.