Mother Nature may very well have some fireworks of her own planned for the Fourth of July.
The National Hurricane Center predicts a tropical system to develop into a hurricane and be off the coast of North Carolina by late Thursday and early Friday.
Tropical Storm Arthur formed Tuesday morning off the Florida coast and forecasters are beginning to narrow in on the strength and projected path of the storm. The exact track remains somewhat uncertain, but weather forecasters expect the storm to be close enough to land to bring an increased chance of rain Thursday and Friday with gusty winds, possibly to tropical storm strength between 39 mph and 74 mph.
As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, no watches or warnings had been issued for the area in advance of Arthur, which was located off the Florida coast with 50 mph winds.
Havelock officials met about the storm on Tuesday and have started initial preparations.
“We’re monitoring everything real closely,” said Kelsey Petrosky, the city’s communications coordinator.
She said more meetings are planned for Wednesday when more storm preparations will take place.
“We’re going to be preparing for it to be much worse than they say it will be just so we’ll be ready,” she said.
Petrosky said the city would be providing updates to local media as well as through the city’s website, Twitter account and Facebook page as warranted.
She said the city has made no decision yet on whether to postpone the Fourth of July Freedom Festival.
One thing residents can do in advance of the storm is to secure any lose items in their yards that could potentially blow around in high winds and cause damage. Those who live near storm drains can make sure they are clear of debris to allow water to flow freely and not back up into yards and streets.
Arthur is expected to develop into a hurricane by Thursday and then quickly move north to northeast, bringing it close to the Cape Fear region, Cape Lookout and the Outer Banks by early Friday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center. Currently, the storm’s center is expected to stay off the coast, but any shift slightly to the west could bring the storm on shore. Any shift east could lessen the impacts for Eastern North Carolina.
Officials are telling residents and visitors who may be planning trips to the coast for the holiday weekend to pay attention to the weather forecasts and advisories issued through the hurricane center, National Weather Service and local emergency management authorities.
Should the storm follow its current predicted path, it is expected to exit far off the coast by the middle of the day on Friday. Currently, the weather service expects mostly sunny skies for Saturday and Sunday with high temperatures in the middle to upper 80s.
Arthur is the first named storm of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, one that forecasters had predicted would be at or below average for the number of storms.
Arthur comes less than a week after a severe thunderstorm Friday dropped nearly 3 inches of rain in about two hours in the Havelock area, causing minor flooding and stranding motorists.
The National Weather Service in Newport issued a flood advisory for the area as well as a special weather statement about the thunderstorm that moved into the area shortly after noon on Friday.
Some hail and high winds were reported with the storm.
Havelock police had to block parts of Trader Avenue and Park Lane as city crews attempted to keep storm drains clear. During the peak of the storm, a vehicle stranded on Park Lane had water up to its windows. Some flooding was reported on Brown Boulevard, and drainage ditches backed up into yards in several neighborhoods.
Lightning caused some power outages in the area, and Havelock police officers were directing traffic for a time around flooded areas.
Areas of Cherry Point also had sporadic power outages, but there were no significant negative impacts from the storm on base, according to a base spokesman.