The National Weather Service early Thursday morning declared Tropical Storm Arthur a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami extended a hurricane warning from Surf City, N.C., just south of the Marine Corps base at Camp Lejune, north to the Virginia border. The warning also included Pamlico Sound and Eastern Albemarle Sound.
The storm is expected to deliver its worst blow to North Carolina's coast in the early hours of the July 4 holiday, dropping anywhere from two to six inches of rain and causing estimated 2- to 4-foot storm surges along the coast, according to the National Weather Service. Wind gusts could reach up to 105 mph, forecasters said.
The storm is the first named hurricane of the Atlantic season.
Local officials issued a mandatory evacuation order Wednesday for residents and visitors on Hatteras Island, a small barrier island off North Carolina's northern coast.
Dare County officials told people to evacuate during daylight hours on Thursday "before the effects of [the storm] begin to bring high winds, rough seas, dangerous rip currents and the potential for water and sand overwash on NC Highway 12."
Gov. Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency for coastal counties.
McCrory told the public and tourists visiting for the Fourth of July weekend not to underestimate the storm and to avoid going into the water.
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Preparations to protect life & property should be rushed to completion with Arthur's squalls nearing the warned areas pic.twitter.com/cvEq5sstTQ— Natl Hurricane Ctr (@NHC_Atlantic) July 3, 2014