It’s official, the first tropical storm of the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane season has strengthened into a category 1 hurricane. Hurricane Arthur, which formed off the Florida coast on Tuesday, is headed on a collision course with North Carolina’s Outer Banks. At 5 a.m.Thursday morning, a mandatory evacuation of Hatteras Island was ordered. Wind gusts of around 75 miles an hour are expected to batter the area as the storm makes landfall Thursday night.
Farther north, along the Jersey Shore and Long Island, the storm is expected to bring heavy rain, freshwater flooding, potentially deadly rip currents, high surf, and wind and tidal flooding according to the National Weather Service. This means that while Arthur won’t be a Superstorm Sandy or Hurricane Irene, it could still devastate an area heavily dependent on tourism revenues as visitors choose to avoid the beach this 4th of July weekend.
To make matters worse, the tri-state area was pounded by a series of severe thunderstorms Wednesday evening which left motorists in New Jersey stranded and caused a retention wall under the Brooklyn Bridge to collapse, injuring a family that was sheltering during the storm. More heavy rain is expected Thursday, meaning that dedicated vacationers may struggle to reach the beaches even if the threat posed by Hurricane Arthur doesn’t scare them away.
Arthur is “absolutely something not only beachgoers but especially mariners need to keep an eye on,” David A. Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist at Rutgers University told the Asbury Park Press.
The storm could also cause severe erosion, as sand dunes are still not well established this early in the season.
On Long Island’s Jones Beach, which usually sees 400,000 visitors for the 4th of July weekend, nearly two dozen people have already had to be rescued from rip currents in the last few days and officials have warned that swimming may have to be banned altogether soon.
Beach-goers elsewhere in Long Island are heading away from the water, not towards it. Dominic Ratuchi told a local NBC4 news reporter that he was taking his RV inland, despite the family tradition of spending the weekend on Cedar beach.
“It’s just not fun to be at the beach when it’s raining and you’re worried about a hurricane,” he said. “It’s not worth it.’
The 4th of July weekend comes during one of the busiest tourism times of the year in the Garden State. For small businesses, still recovering after Hurricane Sandy, the 4th of July can be a make or break weekend.
The forecast along the coast is for sunny skies by Saturday and Sunday, although rip currents will remain a serious threat even after the storm passes, potentially restricting beach-goers to the sand.