(Updates with Arthur now hurricane in second paragraph, adds evacuations in North Carolina in seventh.)
July 3 (Bloomberg) -- Thunderstorms, downpours and a hurricane converging on the U.S. East Coast as the July Fourth holiday arrives are putting fireworks celebrations and beach outings in doubt.
Hurricane Arthur, which is moving up the East Coast, will block a cold front from the west, the U.S. Weather Prediction Center said. That means rain will start falling in New York and elsewhere along the coast today and persist through tomorrow, while Arthur threatens to lash North Carolina’s Outer Banks as a Category 1 system.
“Places like New York City and Philadelphia will see some pretty good rain through Friday morning, but then things will improve quickly as we head into the afternoon hours,” said Dan Kottlowski, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania.
From Duck, North Carolina, to New York City, organizers of concerts, parades and fireworks displays watched weather reports to determine if their shows would go on. Vacationers in coastal areas canceled plans or prepared to ride out the storm. Boston moved up its celebration to tonight.
AAA projected July 26 that 41 million Americans would travel at least 50 miles (80 kilometers) over the holiday, 34.8 million of the travelers by car, the most since 2007. The nation’s largest motoring group defines the Independence Day weekend as running from yesterday through July 6.
The Cross Sound Ferry between Connecticut and Long Island canceled trips out of New London and Orient Point for today, according to the company’s website.
North Carolina’s Outer Banks may be the only part of the coast that takes a direct hit from Arthur, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. A mandatory evacuation was called for Hatteras Island starting today, while Ocracoke Island was under a voluntary evacuation order.
Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for coastal and eastern counties and ordered members of the National Guard to be ready to help with recovery operations if needed. The state will also run ferries around the clock to Outer Bank areas to pick up anyone who wanted to leave.
The west side of the hurricane may scrape Dare County, in easternmost North Carolina, where as many as 300,000 people were expected to be vacationing.
“Unless there’s a forced evacuation, I’m going to stay and enjoy the best weather that you ever get at the beach, which is the day after the hurricane,” said Paul Equale, president of the Washington-based public affairs consulting firm Equale & Associates, who has been at his beach house in Duck, North Carolina, in Dare County. “It’s like a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode because no one’s here except you and that beautiful weather.”
Hurricane and tropical storm alerts stretch from South Carolina to Virginia. Kottlowski said coastal areas of North Carolina may see waters rise by 3 feet or more as the storm comes through.
Arthur is a lopsided storm with most of its power to the north and east. If the hurricane tracks as forecast, only its weakest side will touch the North Carolina coast, said Rob Carolan, owner of Hometown Forecast Services Inc. in Nashua, New Hampshire.
The timing and location of Arthur’s path will determine the quality of weather for the East Coast on the Fourth of July, Carolan said. The farther south and west, the nicer the weather.
New York City will have rain early July 4 with the possibility of improving conditions as the day goes on, said Joey Picca, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Upton, New York. The rain will clear from west to east, he said.
“It certainly won’t be as hot,” Picca said. “The cold front will sweep all the moisture off to the east, so the humidity will be coming down.”
Macy’s will make the final call on its 9 p.m. fireworks show based on actual conditions July 4, said Orlando Veras, spokesman for the company.
“Macy’s fireworks can take place in the rain, as they have on numerous occasions in the past,” Veras said in an e-mail interview. “In the event there is severe weather such as lightning, we will work closely with our city agency partners to determine what steps to take, including delaying the launch of the display.”
Washington’s conditions will probably improve earlier than New York’s, Carolan said. As the system passes, it will pull cooler and drier air in behind it, so by the time fireworks start there temperatures may be in the 60s Fahrenheit (upper teens Celsius) under clearing skies.
Boston, farther to the north and east, will have showers linger longer, Carolan said. A concert by the Boston Pops and fireworks show scheduled for July 4 on the banks of the Charles River was moved up to tonight.
Massachusetts law forbids fireworks if winds reach or exceed 20 mph, said Steve MacDonald, spokesman for B4 Productions, which runs the Boston show and concert. The weather service said there is a 60 percent chance of showers in Boston at show time.
On Cape Cod, the part of Massachusetts that juts out into the Atlantic, the popular tourist destination is expected to deal with tropical storm conditions through July 5, according to the weather service.
The Elizabethan Inn, a 78-room hotel on Roanoke Island, North Carolina, was full for the holiday weekend before guests started getting nervous and calling to cancel today, said Suriksha Bhula, assistant manager.
The last time the inn saw a large number of cancellations was in 2012 during Hurricane Sandy. State ferry crews stayed at the hotel from when the storm hit in October until Christmas.
For most of the eastern U.S., July 5 will dawn as a nice day and conditions will improve through the rest of the weekend, Carolan said.
Arthur probably won’t damp fuel demand over the July 4 holiday, Michael Green, a spokesman for the Heathrow, Florida- based automobile club AAA, said by telephone from Washington.
“A little rain isn’t going to keep people from going on their trips,” Green said. “You might see a little less driving, but probably not enough to make a huge difference in fuel demand.”
--With assistance from Kelly Blessing in Boston, Jennifer Surane, Kelly Gilblom and Meghan Morris in New York and Lynn Doan in San Francisco.