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Hurricane Arthur Threatens North Carolina, Forces Thousands To Abandon Vacation Plans

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Hurricane Arthur strengthen to a Category 2 storm late on Thursday, bringing severe weather to North Carolina and cities along the East Coast.

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KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. (AP) — A strengthening Hurricane Arthur forced thousands of vacationers on the North Carolina coast to abandon their Independence Day plans while cities farther up the East Coast rescheduled fireworks displays threatened by rain from the storm.

Arthur strengthened to a Category 2 hurricane Thursday night, its winds strengthening to 100 mph before it made landfall near the southern end of the Outer Banks. Little change was expected in the storm's strength Thursday night and Friday, and 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.

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Handout provided by NOAA on July 3, 2014.

Arthur reached land late Thursday between Cape Lookout and Beaufort, North Carolina, near the southern end of the Outer Banks, a 200-mile string of narrow barrier islands with about 57,000 permanent residents.

The islands are susceptible to high winds, rough seas and road-clogging sands, prompting an exodus that began Wednesday night.

Among the tourists leaving Hatteras Island were 27-year-old Nichole Specht and 28-year-old Ryan Witman of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The couple started driving at 3:30 a.m. Thursday on North Carolina Highway 12, the only road on and off Hatteras.

"We were just saying we were really, really lucky this year that the weather was so great, and then this," Specht said as she ended a two-week vacation.

Many island residents, meanwhile, decided to ride out the powerful storm rather than risk losing access to homes connected to the mainland by a highway prone to washouts.

"All the people that I know who live here are staying put," said Mike Rabe, who planned to stay in his Rodanthe home despite an evacuation order for surrounding Hatteras Island.

In the last hours before the hurricane's approach late Thursday, Lena Lines helped to move furniture from the basement to the first floor of the home she shares with her parents to save it from possible flooding. They live in a complex of canals and sound-front homes in the shadow of a memorial to the Wright Brothers, who made the first powered flight in Kill Devil Hills.

If you live in that neighborhood, "it's undeniable, you're going to get flooded" during a storm like this, Lines said.

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A man fishes on July 3, 2014 in Nags Head, North Carolina.

Dave Gillis, who does maintenance work at Harris-Teeter grocery stores, was attaching sections of galvanized sheet metal over the glass wall at the entrance of a Kill Devil Hills location just as rain started to fall sporadically at 10:30 pm.

"We're just getting to it," he said. "We've had a pretty busy day."

The departures of vacationers left things "pretty dead" on Hatteras Island during the normally bustling run-up to the Independence Day weekend, Rabe said. He spent Thursday running errands and helping neighbors prepare their homes for the storm.

Before the storm hit, tourism officials had expected 250,000 people to travel to the Outer Banks for the holiday weekend. Gov. Pat McCrory sought to strike a balance between a stern warning to vacationers and optimism that part of the busy weekend could be salvaged.

"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," he said.

Arthur, the first named storm of the Atlantic season, prompted a hurricane warning for much of the North Carolina coast. On the Outer Banks' Ocracoke Island, accessible only by ferry, a voluntary evacuation was underway.

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Vehicles drive off the ferry from Ocracoke Island, July 2, in Cape Hatteras.

Among those leaving the island was the Unmussig family of Midlothian, Virginia. They cut their vacation two days short when they left Thursday morning in an SUV towing a trailer filled with bicycles and kayaks.

"Our cottage was right on the sound and we didn't want that back-current surge coming in and flooding us out," said Donald Unmussig, 50.

"I just didn't want to risk getting caught there. I have to work Monday morning. I didn't want to be late," he added. "We just decided to cut the losses and go home and not have to deal with the problems."

Tropical storm warnings were also in effect for coastal areas in South Carolina and Virginia and as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

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Kevin Taylor, of Savannah, Ga., on Tybee Island, Thursday, July 3, 2014.

On the Massachusetts island of Nantucket, no evacuations were planned, but residents who have lived through many a fierce storm said they know better than to totally relax.

"I think that for the most part it's another storm, but you never know what can happen," said Rocky Fox, who owns the Chicken Box nightclub on Nantucket. "Being the Fourth of July weekend, things seems to be magnified."

Fox said Nantucket residents are used to being prepared. "Mother Nature was upset with us this winter, and she may not be through. We're on an island. You can never tell what it's going to do. You prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

Just before midnight Thursday, Arthur was located about 5 miles (10 kilometers) northwest of Cape Lookout and 65 miles (105 kilometers) southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It was moving northeast at 18 mph (30 kph).

___

Associated Press writers Martha Waggoner in Raleigh, N.C.; Tony Winton in Miami; and Matt Small in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio .

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Today 11:36 PM EDT
Hurricane Makes Landfall

The center of Hurricane Arthur made landfall around 11:15 p.m. EDT over the Shackleford Banks.

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According to the National Hurricane Center, the eye of the storm is about to make landfall near Cape Lookout.

CHANGES WITH THIS ADVISORY...

THE TROPICAL STORM WARNING HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED SOUTH OF CAPE FEAR.

ENVIRONMENT CANADA HAS ISSUED A TROPICAL STORM WATCH FOR THE COAST
OF NEW BRUNSWICK FROM THE U.S./CANADA BORDER TO GRAND-ANSE...ALL OF
NOVA SCOTIA INCLUDING CAPE BRETON ISLAND...AND ALL OF PRINCE EDWARD
ISLAND.

Read the full advisory here.

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The National Hurricane Center reported in a 10 p.m. EST update that hurricane-force winds are expected to hit the warning area soon.

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NBC News reports that Hyde County officials have set a curfew during the storm:

The curfew for Ocracoke Island will be in place from 8 p.m. Thursday to 8 a.m. Friday. Additionally, a curfew for mainland Hyde County will be effective from 10 p.m. Thursday until 8 a.m. Friday.

Hyde County officials have also placed a ban on the sale of alcohol beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday until 8 a.m. Friday.

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The National Hurricane Center reports that the storm has become a category 2 hurricane.

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An 8 p.m. National Hurricane Center advisory reports that the eye of the storm is passing southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina. Maximum sustained winds of 90 mph have been recorded.

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A 7 p.m. EST advisory issued by the National Hurricane Center reports that the eye wall of the storm is just east of Cape Fear:

A HURRICANE WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* SURF CITY NORTH CAROLINA TO THE NORTH CAROLINA/VIRGINIA BORDER
* PAMLICO SOUND
* EASTERN ALBEMARLE SOUND

A HURRICANE WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* LITTLE RIVER INLET TO SOUTH OF SURF CITY

A TROPICAL STORM WARNING IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* SOUTH SANTEE RIVER SOUTH CAROLINA TO SOUTH OF SURF CITY
* THE NORTH CAROLINA/VIRGINIA BORDER TO CAPE CHARLES LIGHT
VIRGINIA...INCLUDING THE MOUTH OF THE CHESAPEAKE BAY
* WESTERN ALBEMARLE SOUND
* NANTUCKET
* CAPE COD FROM PROVINCETOWN TO CHATHAM

A TROPICAL STORM WATCH IS IN EFFECT FOR...
* NOVA SCOTIA FROM PORT MAITLAND TO POINT ACONI

Read the full advisory here.

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An update provided by the National Hurricane Center at 6 p.m. EST reports: ...EYE OF ARTHUR PASSING SOUTHEAST OF CAPE FEAR...

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Today 4:17 PM EDT
Scene From The Beach

From The New York Times:

The sun was still shimmering on Thursday afternoon when Bill Peters stared out of the Cypress House Inn and pronounced his property nearly ready for Hurricane Arthur. Most of the storm shutters were closed. He would soon be contacting scheduled guests to see whether they wanted to delay their arrivals by a day or two. And, scrawled in blue chalk outside the front door, someone had left a message: “Go away, Arthur!!!”

As Mr. Peters, who has run his tidy inn here in the Outer Banks for a decade, prepared for the arrival of a surprisingly strong storm, some of his guests were still at the beach.

Such was Thursday on North Carolina’s coast, a place where thousands of residents and visitors mostly shrugged off the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season. Forecasters announced late in the morning that the storm would probably graze the coast with sustained winds of at least 96 miles an hour.

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Today 3:52 PM EDT
Eye Of The Storm
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Today 2:41 PM EDT
12 Hours Away
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If the hurricane reaches Category 3 status (111 mph sustained winds is the threshold), it would be the first such storm to hit the U.S. mainland since 2005.

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Today 1:46 PM EDT
Tornado Watch Issued
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NOAA declared a severe thunderstorm watch for several East Coast states. Residents in parts of D.C., Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania have been warned of heavy rain, as well as extreme winds and possible hail. The warning went into effect on 1255 PM and is expected last until 900 PM EDT.

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The Washington Post's weather team points out that Arthur will be one of the earliest hurricanes in the past two decades. BuzzFeed storm notes that it could also be the earliest-known hurricane to hit land in North Carolina.

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