CAPE LOOKOUT, N.C. (July 4, 2014 – CNN) — Robin Nelson’s house clattered as Hurricane Arthur came ashore over North Carolina late Thursday with 100 mph winds. She was right in the path of its eye wall.
The Category 2 storm made landfall at 11:15 p.m. between Cape Lookout and Beaufort, the National Hurricane Center said.
Arthur was charging to the northeast at 18 mph and was 20 miles north of the cape early Friday.
Nelson lives in Newport, right across the sound from Beaufort.
Storm gusts announced themselves with a whirring hum from a distance before snapping tree limbs near her home.
“It’s howling pretty good here,” she said. “You can hear it coming across the sound.” First comes the roar then, moments later, trees tousle about.
The cracking sounds were violent, she said. “I’m sure there are going to be some big limbs.” She heard windborne debris clanging into things.
It was dark outside, so she checked Facebook for signs of neighborhood damage.
“We still have power and cable, which is amazing,” Nelson said. Thousands of North Carolina households are less fortunate.
Nearly 18,000 customers lost electricity along the coast of North Carolina as Hurricane Arthur passed through, Duke Energy said. The overwhelming majority were in her county.
Sure enough, a friend had a limb on her roof. The same friend had fallen victim to theft a day before and lost her chainsaws.
Nelson feels safe in her house. The family brought in any loose objects and secured propped garden furniture against walls and fences.
Her younger son couldn’t sleep for the rattling of the windows. They didn’t disturb her husband.
“He’s very good at sleeping through hurricanes,” Nelson said.
Storm grew stronger
CNN severe weather expert Chad Myers said the storm got more dangerous as it developed an inner eye wall.
“That’s concerning, because the smaller the eye gets, the stronger the winds get,” he said.
Rain was intermittently heavy throughout the day Thursday in much of the southeastern parts of the state.
The National Weather Service in Wilmington said 1 1/3 inches of rain fell during one hour Thursday afternoon. The office also tweeted that there was some flooding just south of downtown.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory told residents and tourists to stay inside while it was dark outside.
The good news: the storm hit Thursday at low tide, the governor said. The bad news: The storm grew stronger.
Sherman Lee Criner is vacationing in a bull’s eye. Emerald Island, North Carolina, is just in front of Newport, right out on the Atlantic.
Criner didn’t plan it to be right in Arthur’s path. He asked his two children and niece where they wanted to spend the holidays, they voted for the beach and he granted the wish.
He thought of canceling the trip as the storm brewed but decided against it.
“It’s a doable storm,” Criner said.
The lawyer lives in Wilmington and has sat out hurricanes before. He also felt confident about the sturdiness of their accommodations of concrete and steel.
“We’re in an 8th floor condominium,” he said. When Arthur’s eye wall hits, he woke up son Sherman, 9, daughter Elizabeth, 14, and niece Mary Brown, 10.
They looked out the window at the surf below, as the storm surge pushed it up Indian Beach.
Their uncle told them a ghost story to make it more exciting, and just as they got the willies, the power went out. They all popped glow sticks.
Then Criner, an iron man triathlete, went down to beach to check it out.
The wind blasted sand at his back, leaving it reddened and raw. But he had no problems standing up to the wind.
Surge and waves
Arthur was expected to bring storm surges of up to 7 feet, as well as large, damaging waves, high winds and dangerous rip currents that authorities warned could sweep even the strongest swimmers out to sea.
Hurricane warnings were up for most of the state’s coastline. Parts of Massachusetts, South Carolina and Virginia were under tropical storm warnings. The National Hurricane Center said the storm was moving to the north-northeast.
A tornado watch was in effect for 10 counties of North Carolina.
McCrory declared a state of emergency for 23 eastern counties. As of Thursday evening, at least 7,200 customers of two of the largest power companies in the Wilmington area were without power.
July 4th impact
The storm interrupted some holiday plans, including a decision by the town of Surf City, North Carolina, to scrap its planned Thursday night Fourth of July show.
The city’s website said the storm’s fury is likely to be short-lived and encouraged visitors to keep their beach vacation plans: “Surf City is very much open for business.”
But vacationers should not take the warm welcome as an all clear. To avoid tragedy, they should stay on land.
The storm is expected to spawn deadly rip currents: rapid flows of water from the shore back out to the ocean that can pull people to sea and exhaust even the strongest swimmers.
Tropical cyclones killed six people in 2009, the National Weather Service said. All drowned in large waves or rip currents. The weather service calls them the worst danger at the beach.
Keeping the Boston Pops dry
Despite the risks farther south, the storm shouldn’t force a total washout of East Coast Independence Day celebrations.
In the nation’s capital, the weather looks cheerier for the holiday.
The slight chance of rain during the day Friday will vanish by night, leaving clear skies for the rockets’ red glare of fireworks over the National Mall.
However, Thursday’s rehearsal was closed to the public because of storms.