Storm warnings went up in the area Wednesday as Tropical Storm Arthur gained strength.
As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said Arthur was near hurricane strength with winds of 70 mph and shifted the forecasted track westward, bringing the storm closer to the coast but keeping it off shore.
With the new projected path, forecasters issued a hurricane warning for the area.
Arthur’s center was not expected to make landfall but could come close enough to the shore that parts of Eastern North Carolina experience hurricane-force winds, according to the National Weather Service in Newport. The hurricane center cited the storm’s expanding windfield and new projected path in issuing the hurricane warning for the area.
Because of the storm, Havelock has postponed its Fourth of July Freedom Festival until Saturday. The event is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and concludes with a fireworks display at 9 p.m.
Tropical Storm Arthur formed Tuesday morning off the Florida coast. Tropical storm winds of 39 to 74 mph could hit the area by Thursday afternoon as rain bands begin to impact the area
Water levels are expected to increase in the Neuse River and associated creeks by about 2 to 4 feet, leading to some minor flooding. However, the weather service said the storm would be moving so quickly that major flooding is not expected.
The storm is expected to bring 1 to 2 inches of rain, with some isolated higher amounts possible, according to the weather service. Isolated tornadoes may also be a threat, according to the weather service.
The storm comes just as many are preparing for the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Officials are telling residents and visitors who may be planning trips to the coast to pay attention to weather forecasts and advisories issued through the hurricane center, National Weather Service and local emergency management authorities.
The cities of Atlantic Beach and Morehead City rescheduled their fireworks displays for Saturday.
The U.S. Forest Service closed campgrounds in the Croatan National Forest, affecting holiday campers at the Cedar Point, Flanners Beach and Oyster Point areas. Some day-use areas of the forest will also be closed during the duration of the storm, but roads in the forest should stay open.
Cape Lookout National Seashore also closed.
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 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.
Still, Arthur is expected to be a quick-mover, leading to rapidly improving weather over the weekend. The weather service expects mostly sunny skies for Saturday and Sunday with high temperatures in the middle 80s, though wave heights and the threat of rip currents could remain high at the beaches, especially north of Cape Lookout.