A hurricane warning has been issued for large swaths of North Carolina as federal officials expect Tropical Storm Arthur to become a hurricane later Wednesday or Thursday.
Dare County officials told people to evacuate during daylight hours on Thursday "before the effects of Tropical Storm Arthur begin to bring high winds, rough seas, dangerous rip currents and the potential for water and sand overwash on NC Highway 12."
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency earlier Wednesday for coastal counties as Tropical Storm Arthur threatened to bear down on the state's coast with winds reaching 70 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
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.
"Let's hope for the best, pray for the best," he said at a news conference. "Again, don't put your stupid hat on, let's be smart."
A hurricane warning is in effect from Surf City, N.C., to Duck, N.C., as well as the Pamlico and Eastern Albemarle Sounds, as Arthur slowly drifts north.
Coastal Hyde County issued a voluntary evacuation order for Ocracoke Island as the National Hurricane Center also warned of potential flooding in coastal areas. The state also waved ferry fees Wednesday as people left Ocracoke Island.
It's unclear what effect Arthur will have on North Carolina, state emergency management director Mike Sprayberry said, but the state has National Guard members ready to help evacuate coastal areas.
"It is still too early to tell what kind of impact this event is going to have," he said. "We intend to be prepared for any eventuality."
3:54 p.m.: This post was updated with information about the mandatory evacuation of Hatteras Island.
2:45 p.m.: This post was updated to say that Tropical Storm Arthur was expected to develop into a hurricane as well as to add details about where a hurricane warning was in effect and where voluntary evacuations had been ordered.
The first version of this post was published at 10:35 a.m.
Follow @jpanzar for breaking newsCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times