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, a pocket along the coast that includes Newport and Havelock recorded more than 4 inches (10 cm) of rain Monday, according to the National Weather Service. Other areas along the coast saw 2 inches (5 cm) or more, causing some secondary roads to flood.
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.
North Carolina Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry said that overwash or standing water had closed a highway on the Outer Banks and another on the mainland. Other secondary roads had flooded. Otherwise, he said conditions were stable and that no other serious problems had been reported to the state.
Still, he warned that surf conditions will remain dangerous and advised people to be cautious around the water even as the storm pushes out to sea.
“People in the eastern part of our state should remain cautious, especially while driving in areas where water may collect on roads,” he said at a news conference. “Today is not the day to take risks at the beach or in the surf.”
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.
Associated Press writer Danica Coto in San Juan, Puerto Rico, contributed to this report.