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N.C. barrier islands prepare as storm gets close

Mark Crowden, a marina dock master, added an extra line Wednesday in Oriental, N.C. He was making certain the boats would be safe  as  Tropical Storm Arthur approached.

Chuck Beckley/Sun Journal/associated press

Mark Crowden, a marina dock master, added an extra line Wednesday in Oriental, N.C. He was making certain the boats would be safe as Tropical Storm Arthur approached.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — As one of the year’s busiest travel weekends approaches, so does another visitor: Tropical Storm Arthur, expected to grow into a hurricane by the Fourth of July and hit most harshly at North Carolina’s Outer Banks, a popular getaway spot of thin barrier islands along the shore.

The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season prompted a hurricane warning for a wide swath of the North Carolina coast and had officials, hotel owners, and would-be vacationers as far north as New England carefully watching forecasts.

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The Outer Banks will be especially vulnerable, forecasters said. The area’s tourism agency expects about 250,000 people to travel there and stay in hotels and rental homes for the holiday weekend.

‘‘We want everybody to be safe and prepared, but we are not overly concerned at this point,’’ said Lee Nettles, the executive director the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

But flooding concerns remained: Twice in recent years, storm-driven waves have sliced North Carolina Route 12, the main road along the islands, rendering it impassable. On Ocracoke Island, accessible only by ferry, a voluntary evacuation was announced.

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Stores saw runs on generators, lanterns, and flashlights, but even some workers were not yet concerned.

‘‘I’ve been through Irene. I went through Isabelle,’’ said Bill Motley, who works at Ace Hardware in Nags Head has lived on the Outer Banks for 13 years. ‘‘I’m not even worried about this one. I’m more worried about my tomato plants. With the wind coming, if we get a 50 miler per hour gust, it will knock over my tomato plants.’’

At a news conference, Governor Pat McCrory advised residents, ‘‘Don’t put your stupid hat on.’’ With concerns of rip tides, he urged surfers and swimmers not to get in the water regardless of how good the waves might be.

‘‘Our major goal is to ensure that no lives are lost during this upcoming storm,’’ including those of emergency workers, McCrory said. He declared a state of emergency for 25 coastal and adjoining counties.

Nancy Janitz, 60, of Jacksonville, N.C., said she was ready, thanks to technology.

‘‘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.’’

The forecast did not call for a landfall in the United States, but officials and travelers north to New England kept an eye on the storm’s projected path. Many areas warned of rain, wind, and potential rip tides.

The worst of the storm should occur at Cape Hatteras, N.C., at about dawn Friday, with 3 to 5 inches of rain and sustained winds up to 85 miles per hour, said Tony Saavedra, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service. But forecasters said that by later Friday, the effects of Arthur would be past the Outer Banks.

The Hurricane Center predicted the storm would be off the coast of New England later in the day and eventually make landfall in Canada’s maritime provinces as a tropical storm.

In the Myrtle Beach area, the heart of South Carolina’s $18 billion tourism industry, Arthur was expected to move in Thursday night, spinning wind gusts from 40 to 50 miles per hour.

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