This year’s Atlantic hurricane season officially has its first tropical storm, dubbed “Arthur.” And it could put a damper on some Americans 4th of July plans.
The storm formed off the coast of Florida on Tuesday, after a tropical depression — nicknamed “possibArthur” by Gawker — began gathering various weather systems into a more organized whole over the weekend. As of early Wednesday morning, Tropical Storm Arthur was sitting about 105 miles off the coast of Cape Canaveral, boasting maximum sustained winds of about 60 miles per hour (mph). Forecasters anticipate it will stay just offshore as it sweeps up the eastern seaboard over the next few days.
A tropical storm warning is in effect along the entire coast of North Carolina, along with a hurricane watch for the portion of the state’s coast that stretches out into the Atlantic between Bogue Inlet and Oregon Inlet. Tony Saavedra, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service — part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — told USA Today that the biggest hit from the storm will probably fall on Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, sometime around dawn on Friday — bringing 3 to 5 inches of rain and sustained winds up to 85 mph. Later on Friday, Arthur should make its way past the New England coast, and could make landfall in Canada while still qualifying as a tropical storm.
Winds have to be sustained between 39 and 73 mph for the “tropical storm” classification to hold. According to Climate Central, the Outer Banks and other chunks of the North Carolina coast have around a 70 percent chance of seeing winds of that force. Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston, New York City, and Washington, DC all have around a 20 percent chance.
The National Weather Service is also predicting up to 6 inches of rain from Arthur for North Carolina’s Outer Banks, though the Northeast as a whole will likely only feel a glancing blow from the storm’s precipitation.
Finally, the Service’s new storm surge map shows that Arthur could bring up to three feet of flooding to places all along the coasts of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina — and in a few select places from Wilmington, North Carolina to the barrier islands, storm surges could reach 6 feet.
Hurricane season officially starts on June 1. But Arthur is actually a bit ahead of schedule, as the first tropical storm of the season usually doesn’t form until July 9, on average. And the first hurricane usually arrives around August 10 — again according to Climate Central, who pulled National Hurricane Center data from 1966 to 2009.
Overall, NOAA is predicting a near- to slightly-below average hurricane season this year, thanks in part to El Niño. Last year, hurricane season was well below average, with no major hurricanes, two hurricanes in total, and a slightly above-average number of named storms. Mexico, however, got hit hard by three tropical storms: Barry, Fernand, and Ingrid.