Updated 12:11 p.m. E.T.
Hurricane Arthur made its way north up the East Coast on Friday, after forcing thousands of Fourth of July vacationers to evacuate and creating gridlock on highways and skyways as rain scrambled holiday plans and rescheduled fireworks shows.
After the hurricane made landfall late Thursday night, the National Weather Service said North Carolina could get eight inches of rain on Friday, while areas as far north as Cape Cod in Massachusetts could se six inches. Arthur became a Category 2 storm overnight, and fierce winds were expected to push into Virginia on Friday. Authorities warned of coastal flooding and dangerous ocean conditions up and down the East Coast, and tropical storm warnings were in effect all the way to Cape Cod. It weakened to a Category 1 storm Friday morning as it moved up the East Coast.
Despite sunny skies forecast for the weekend, heavy rain had already wreaked havoc on Fourth of July plans. Cities as far north as Boston had rescheduled their fireworks for Thursday night or later in the weekend in anticipation of soggy weather.The Brief Newsletter Sign up to receive the top stories you need to know right now. View Sample Sign Up Now
Arthur was the earliest hurricane to hit North Carolina since record-keeping efforts began in 1851. The storm system continued to bring heavy rains and winds of up to 100 m.p.h. early Friday morning, with meteorologists anticipating ldquolittle change in strengthrdquo as the storm grazes the Eastern seaboard over the course of the day.
More than 21,000 people across North and South Carolina were without electricity early Friday morning, the Associated Press reports. The storm was heading northeast at 22 m.p.h. and was about 80 miles north of Cape Lookout, N.C., by early Friday, CNN reports.
Arthur created a pattern of gridlock spanning the U.S. More than a thousand flights had been canceled by midday Thursdaymdasha frustrating start to a weekend when 41 million Americans were projected to travel.
ldquoI found out at 5 p.m. [on Wednesday] that my 7:50 p.m. flight was canceled due to lsquoair-traffic congestion [because of Arthur],rdquo Taylor Laub, who was scheduled to fly to Philadelphia from Atlanta, told TIME from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Her rescheduled flight had been ldquosuccessively delayedrdquo into late Thursday night.
The scene at Reagan Washington National Airport on Thursday afternoon was chaos as Hurricane Arthur continued to gather strength off the coast of North Carolina. Passengers on flights scheduled to leave mid-afternoon were still waiting at 8:30 p.m.