Proving far less damaging than feared, Hurricane Arthur has left tens of thousands of people without power in a swipe at North Carolina's dangerously exposed Outer Banks, then brought lousy Fourth of July beach weather to the Northeast as it veered out to sea.
The weather along the narrow barrier islands - whose beaches draw scores of tourists every summer - was already clearing on Friday (local time) as Arthur's outer bands scraped the Delaware and New Jersey shores. Forecasters did predict a second landfall Saturday evening in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Canada.
Arthur struck North Carolina as a Category 2 storm with winds of 160kmh late on Thursday, taking about five hours to move across the far eastern part of the state.
About 40,000 people lost power, and the rush of water from the ocean on one side and the sound on the other side buckled part of North Carolina Highway 12 in a spot on Hatteras Island that was breached in Hurricane Irene in 2011. Dozens of workers were heading to fix the highway, and the Department of Transportation said it was confident the road would reopen on Saturday as long as an underwater sonar test of a key bridge showed no problems.
No injuries or deaths were reported. After praising emergency officials and saying the state dodged a bullet, Governor McCrory noted that all of North Carolina's beaches were open outside of the Outer Banks and encouraged residents and visitors to enjoy the holiday. He was heading to the beach himself for an Independence Day parade in Southport, a welcome surprise when he expected to be stuck in Raleigh monitoring the storm all day.
"The North Carolina beaches are open for business and they're open for tourists," McCrory said. "The umbrellas are going up as we speak right now."
By 11am on Friday, Arthur had weakened to a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds about 145kmh, and additional weakening is expected, the US National Hurricane Center said. The centre was about 160km east-southeast of Ocean City, Maryland, and the storm was moving northeast near 40kmh.
While the Northeast wasn't expected to take a direct hit, the rain from Arthur's outer bands was disrupting the holiday. Fireworks displays in New Jersey and Maine were postponed until later in the weekend. Tropical storm warnings were in effect for coastal areas as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Tropical storm watches and warnings were in effect for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in southeastern Canada.
Still, the first hurricane known to strike the U.S. on July 4 caused some frayed nerves on North Carolina's Outer Banks - a 320km string of narrow barrier islands with about 57,000 permanent residents and around 250,000 visitors on most summer weekends. A mandatory evacuation was issued for the southern Outer Banks.