Hurricane Arthur dowsed the Grand Strand Thursday with the backhand of its king-sized punch packed for North Carolina and more states up the East Coast.
As predicted by many weather experts, the Category 1 hurricane’s more than 90 mph force whizzed past Horry County, leaving behind a few flooded roads, several loose tree limbs, traffic jam headaches up and down U.S. 17 Bypass Thursday afternoon and water-logged pre-Fourth of July holiday plans.
There was no reported damage in Horry County, according to Lisa Bourcier, spokeswoman for the county.
Arthur forced thousands of vacationers on the North Carolina coast to abandon their Independence Day plans while cities farther up the East Coast rescheduled fireworks displays threatened by rain from the storm.
After passing over or near North Carolina as a hurricane early Friday, Arthur was expected to weaken as it travels northward and slings rain along the East Coast. The annual Boston Pops Fourth of July concert and fireworks show was rescheduled for Thursday because of potential heavy rain from Arthur, while fireworks displays in New Jersey and Maine were postponed until later in the weekend.
Forecasters expect Arthur to strengthen to a Category 2 storm with winds of 96 mph or more by the time it passes early Friday over or near the Outer Banks – a 200-mile string of narrow barrier islands with about 57,000 permanent residents.
Arthur was named the season’s first hurricane at 5 a.m. Thursday after it reached maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and was moving north at about 9 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. By 11 a.m., it had increased with 90 mph sustained winds and was moving north at 14 mph.
At Garden City Beach around noon, surfers reported a combination of tide and wind helped create a safer surfing experience. About 30 people were in the water in Garden City Beach as Arthur brewed.
At 12:15 p.m. Thursday, North Myrtle Beach officials closed Ocean Boulevard between 16th and 17th avenues South because of flooding caused by heavy rainfall, said Pat Dowling, city spokesman.
Horry County spent much of Thursday under a tropical storm warning because of the season’s first hurricane, according to the National Weather Service in Wilmington, N.C. Arthur was initially expected to pass closest to the Grand Strand at 5 p.m. Thursday by being 72 miles offshore, but it arrived at about 3 p.m.
In Cherry Grove, white-capped waves often associated with hurricanes began crashing ashore at around 3 p.m. as people there were also enjoying the waves.
“What worries me is people going outside during these winds, we’ve got a lot of weaken limbs and trees from the ice storm that it won’t take a lot to blow these limbs down,” said Steven Pfaff, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at a midday press conference call.
Residents should expect flooding in the marshes, tidal creek areas and some beaches will see waves up to the dunes, Pfaff said.
Officials had been prepping for the storm since Wednesday when emergency managers in Horry and Georgetown counties, along with state officials, moved their operating conditions to Level 4, which means they were monitoring conditions and on alert, officials said. It is the second lowest of five operational conditions.
By 5:30 p.m., waves were still crashing along the shore in Myrtle Beach and clouds scurried from inland toward the ocean as the area was going through the tail end of Arthur’s counterclockwise rotation.
Along Ocean Boulevard, it was mostly business as usual as many people were walking up and down the boulevard umbrella-less.
“What hurricane?” joked Chris Worthington at about 5:30 p.m. Worthington is visiting Myrtle Beach from Asheville, N.C. “The area got nice and soaked and I sure didn’t come here for that.”
Worthington and friends had come to Myrtle Beach Tuesday and knew about the pending storm.
“I work too much all year round to let a storm mess up my vacation,” he said.
Mark Humphries of Virginia was wave watching with his two daughters shortly before 6 p.m. Thursday.
“It’s actually pretty neat to watch,” Humphries said. “The girls are dying to get in there, but I think they’re just mesmerized by the waves. It’s a cool little addition to our vacation, but I hope it’s not going to be like this all weekend.”
Rainfall reached 2.25 inches at Grand Strand Airport in North Myrtle Beach, according to the National Weather Service.
In Brunswick County, N.C., little damage was reported, and River Road, between Southport and Leland, was closed due to a downed power line.
Friday’s conditions call for mostly sunny skies and a high near 87. Those watching fireworks Friday night will do so under mostly clear skies with a low around 71, according to the National Weather Service.
Rides were unattended at about 6 p.m. at Family Kingdom Thursday, but the Coastal Grand Mall’s parking lot was about as full as it get around the holidays.
Gina Camponella of Charlotte, N.C., was shopping with her children at the mall and said the storm was a perfect excuse for retail therapy.
“What better way is there to get ready for the Fourth than to get some shopping done?” Camponella said.
Writer Steve Jones and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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