Forecast: Hurricane off Carolinas coast on July 4th

slyttle@charlotteobserver.comJuly 1, 2014 

National Hurricane Center meteorologists say Arthur, a relatively weak tropical storm at midday Tuesday, could be an 80 mph hurricane on the Fourth of July when it passes close to the North Carolina coast.

Forecasters aren’t expecting a powerful hurricane, but Arthur – which reached tropical storm status late Tuesday morning with 40 mph winds and a closed circulation – could bring heavy rain and high surf to the coast.

It will arrive on the biggest tourist weekend of the year at the beaches, with perhaps a half-million visitors at the coast for the Independence Day holiday.

At 11 a.m. Tuesday, the center of Arthur was about 95 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral, Fla. The storm had top sustained winds of 40 mph and was drifting to the northwest at about 2 mph.

A tropical storm watch is posted for the northeast Florida coast.

Hurricane Center meteorologist Richard Pasch said the various computer models agree that Tropical Storm Arthur will move northward later Tuesday and Wednesday, propelled by the clockwise steering current around the back side of a high pressure system farther out to sea.

That would take the system riding up the Carolinas coast. Pasch said a lack of wind shear – disruptive winds in the atmosphere – and warm ocean water will cause the storm to strengthen.

“The official intensity forecast now shows the system becoming a hurricane,” Pasch said.

The Hurricane Center predicts the storm would have top sustained winds of 80 mph by midday Friday, when its center is expected to be near Cape Fear at the bottom of the Outer Banks.

On its predicted path, the storm’s strongest winds would remain off the coast of South Carolina and North Carolina, south of the Outer Banks. But the Outer Banks could be near the eye of the storm later Friday.

Even though the storm remains offshore, the South Carolina coast and the Wilmington-Brunswick County area could get a lashing of tropical storm-force winds, heavy rain in squalls, and high surf.

Kimberly Miles, of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, said Monday that many of the Grand Strand’s top hotels are nearing capacity for the weekend. She said a study by Coastal Carolina University shows that up to 300,000 tourists spend summer weekends in the area.

“As of now, we’re not hearing any talk about people canceling plans,” Miles said Monday.

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