MOREHEAD CITY, N.C. (AP) – Tropical Storm Arthur began moving away from the North Carolina coast Monday after dumping heavy rain as forecasters warned that the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season could also bring life-threatening surf and rip currents along the U.S. East Coast.
It’s another early start for the Atlantic hurricane season: Arthur formed Saturday in waters off Florida, marking the sixth straight year that a named storm has developed before June 1.
With Arthur’s center passing off North Carolina, towns near the coast including Newport and Havelock recorded more than 4 inches (10 cm) of rain Monday morning as others approached that number, according to the National Weather Service. Wind gusts of at least 40 mph (64 kph) were recorded in at least two places on the Outer Banks, the weather service said.
The Hurricane Center said Arthur was moving northeast at 16 mph (26 kph) Monday on a path expected to take its center away from the North Carolina coast, as it takes a more eastward path into Tuesday.
At 2 p.m. EDT, the storm’s center was located about 55 miles (85 kilometers) east-northeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Arthur had top sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph).
A tropical storm warning was discontinued south of Ocracoke Inlet but remained in effect from the inlet to Duck, including Pamlico and Albemarle sounds, and heavy rainfall is expected for much of the eastern part of the state, said Michael Lee, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Newport, North Carolina.
“The main threat that we’re really trying to get out there is that there is enhanced risk for dangerous rip currents both today and tomorrow. So, any folks who want to try to go to the beach and get in the water, we have a high risk out for most of our beaches,” Lee said.
The weather service said eastern North Carolina should prepare for some localized flooding and dangerous marine conditions along the coast.
“Minor inundation from storm surge is possible for very low-lying areas adjacent to the ocean, sounds, and rivers, with overwash of dunes and flooding of properties and roadways possible for locations where dune structures are weak,” mainly north of Cape Lookout, the weather service said.
While there may be a component of warming waters and climate change in other pre-June storms, Arthur is more of a subtropical storm system than a traditional named storm and its water is cooler than what’s usually needed for storm formation, said Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach.
A lot of these out-of-season storms are weak fleeting ones that meteorologists can see now because of satellites and better technology and would have been missed in earlier times, Klotzbach said.
Local forecasters in the Bahamas said showers have lingered over the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco, which are still struggling to recover after being hit by a Category 5 hurricane last year. Patients are being cared for in tents in Grand Bahama after Hurricane Dorian damaged the island’s hospital.