Tropical Storm Arthur threatens US 4 July celebrations

Tropical Storm Arthur will strengthen as it moves northward, but the heaviest rain will fall well off shore, BBC Weather's Peter Gibbs says

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US government forecasters have issued a hurricane warning along parts of the east coast, as the season's first named tropical storm threatens to soak Fourth of July celebrations for millions.

Forecasters said Arthur had almost strengthened to a hurricane on Wednesday and could threaten parts of North Carolina in the coming days.

It is currently off the coast of Florida, with high winds and rain.

Hotel owners in affected areas have already reported cancellations.

Tropical Storm Arthur is forecast to grow into a Category 1 hurricane early on Thursday with wind speeds approaching 75 mph (121 km/h).

The National Weather Service has issued a hurricane warning for most of the North Carolina coast, with forecasters warning tourists to the Outer Banks islands to use caution.

Officials warned of storm surge flooding and heavy rainfall forecast along the barrier islands.

Tropical storm watches are also in effect for wider parts of the US east coast.

"We have received some cancellations," North Carolina motel general manager John Zeller told the Associated Press news agency.

People deal with the high surf and currents off Daytona Beach, Florida, on 1 July 2014 Tropical Storm Arthur caused large waves in Daytona Beach, Florida
Tropical Storm Arthur is photographed from space by NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman Nasa astronaut Reid Wiseman photographed the storm from the International Space Station

"Basically we are telling people to kind of wait and see what happens. I think everybody is kind of watching the weather."

The area's tourism agency expects about 250,000 people to spend time in the Outer Banks over the long holiday weekend.

Governor Pat McCrory advised residents: " Don't put your stupid hat on." And he urged surfers and swimmers to avoid the water because of concerns over rip tides.

"Our major goal is to ensure that no lives are lost during this upcoming storm," he said.

Forecasters were optimistic the storm would not rain out the celebrated Fourth of July fireworks on Washington DC's National Mall.

The pyrotechnics show over the famed Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial is set to be broadcast live on television.

The US government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a slower than average hurricane season this year, with eight to 13 total named storms, three to six hurricanes, and one or two major hurricanes.

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