Hurricane Arthur strengthens to a Category 2 - WFLA News Channel 8

Hurricane Arthur strengthens to a Category 2

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RIGHT NOW: Arthur continues to intensify and has strengthened to a Category 2 Hurricane and is  forecast to move across the Outer Banks of North Carolina Thursday night with winds over 100 mph. Arthur will then move up into the NE by Friday evening bringing rain to parts of the Northeast just in time for Independence Day firework shows.

Authorities ordered a mandatory evacuation for visitors to the Outer Banks' Hatteras Island as of 5 a.m. Thursday and a voluntary evacuation for the Outer Banks' Ocracoke Island. It is only accessible by a ferry. Hurricane warnings are extended from Surf City to the Virginia border; hurricane watches are in effect for other parts of the state. 

WHAT'S NEXT: Forecasters say the odds are increasing that Hurricane Arthur will actually make landfall. But they say even if that doesn't happen, coastal North Carolina is going to feel the impact. The timing is bad for the state's Outer Banks -- where tourism officials had expected 250,000 visitors for the holiday weekend. North Carolina's governor says it still should be a "beautiful weekend" after the storm passes tomorrow.

Forecasters expect Arthur to whip past the Outer Banks - a 200-mile string of narrow barrier islands with about 57,000 permanent residents - on Friday without making landfall but still bringing rain, heavy winds, storm surge and dangerous rip tides.

In Tampa Bay we will see a few morning showers and a couple of inland afternoon storms as we say good bye to Arthur today. Temps will stay in the upper 80s. Arthur is centered about 300 miles southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and is moving north near 9 mph.

Up the East Coast, worries of weather from Arthur have prompted some cities to delay fireworks and other July Fourth festivities. Forecasters warn of rain, wind and potentially life-threatening rip tides. The National Hurricane Center predicted Arthur would swipe the North Carolina coast early Friday with winds of up to 85 mph and then be off the coast of New England later in the day, eventually making landfall in Canada's maritime provinces as a tropical storm.

Florida Governor Rick Scott issued a statement Tuesday on TS Arthur, saying the storm is anticipated to have "minimal impact" on Florida. However, the governor went on to say: "This event serves as an important reminder to all Florida families and visitors that hurricane season is here, and it is important that we remain vigilant and have a plan for protecting our families, our homes, and our businesses."

Red flags warned of rough surf along the Atlantic, and beach goers were advised to get into the water only in areas with staffed lifeguard stands.

Red flags also flew Tuesday at Daytona Beach. By midday, a dozen swimmers had been aided by lifeguards when they got caught in a rip current. On any given day, 15 to 20 swimmers need help, said Tammy Marris, spokeswoman for the Volusia County Beach Patrol.

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed information to this report.

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