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East Coast eyes tropical storm

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Along much of the East Coast, hotel owners, tourism officials and would-be vacationers kept a watchful eye on forecasts Wednesday as Tropical Storm Arthur churned off Florida, threatening Fourth of July plans for thousands of people.

A tropical storm warning was issued for the North Carolina coast as the first named storm of the season was expected to strengthen to a hurricane and skim the Outer Banks, a 200-mile string of narrow barrier islands prone to flooding but popular for beachgoers, as a Category 1 hurricane Friday.

But plenty of people planned to continue their trips or ride out the storm.

Nancy Janitz, 60, of Jacksonville was watching Arthur’s progress closely.

“I have my NOAA radio, and I keep tabs on Twitter and Facebook for updates,” she said. “I’m as prepared as I can possibly be.”

Lee Nettles, executive director the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau, emphasized reports that show the storm should move fast, and he said the area sees frequent storms – often more severe.

“We want everybody to be safe and prepared, but we are not overly concerned at this point,” he said.

With four fireworks celebrations planned, some may be delayed, but Nettles said there may be a bright side: “Hey, we may be the area that celebrates the Fourth the longest.”

The worst of the storm is expected to be at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, about dawn Friday, with 3 to 5 inches of rain and sustained winds up to 85 mph, said Tony Saavedra of the National Weather Service.

The storm is expected to be off the coast of New England later in the day, perhaps making landfall in Canada’s maritime provinces as a tropical storm, he said.

Late Wednesday morning, Arthur was about 105 miles east-northeast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, and about 260 miles south-southeast of Charleston, South Carolina. It was moving north about 7 mphwith maximum sustained winds of 60 mph.

A tropical storm watch for Florida’s east coast was canceled Wednesday.

Associated Press reporters Kyle Hightower in Orlando, Florida; Jason Dearen in Jacksonville Beach; Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia; and Matt Small in Washington contributed to this report.

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