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Tropical Storm Arthur strengthens off Florida

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) - With the July Fourth weekend on the horizon, the Atlantic hurricane season's first named storm plodded off Florida's coast early Wednesday, though Tropical Storm Arthur wasn't yet spooking too many in the storm's potential path.

"I think everybody's keeping one eye on the weather and one eye on the events this weekend," said Joe Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah, the city's tourism bureau.

A tropical storm watch was in effect for a swath of Florida's east coast. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami urged those as far north as parts of Virginia to monitor Tropical Storm Arthur's path. The center said Arthur was becoming better organized and predicted it would become a hurricane by Thursday.

Early Wednesday morning, forecasters said the storm was growing a little stronger as it moved slowly northward. It was about 95 miles (155 km) off the coast of Cape Canaveral, Florida, and its maximum sustained winds had increased to about 60 mph (95 kph). The storm was heading north at about 4 mph (6 kph). A gradual increase in forward speed was expected Wednesday, followed by a turn to the northeast by Thursday, the Hurricane Center said.

Off Florida's Space Coast beaches - the closest to Arthur - the sky was cloudy and winds fairly normal, said Eisen Witcher, assistant chief of Brevard County Ocean Rescue.

Red flags warned of rough surf, and beachgoers were advised to get into the water only in areas with staffed lifeguard stands. But overall, Witcher said, "it's business as usual."

Red flags also flew at Daytona Beach. By midday, a dozen swimmers had been aided by lifeguards when they got caught in a rip current. On any given day, 15 to 20 swimmers need help, said Tammy Marris, spokeswoman for the Volusia County Beach Patrol.

Near the storm, 19 ill crew members were evacuated from a South Korean cargo ship after they showed signs of food poisoning. The cargo ship JS Comet was anchored 3 miles off Cape Canaveral, and the Coast Guard reported that deteriorating weather conditions were one factor in the decision to evacuate.

Outside Florida, there were no official storm watches or warnings, but forecasters started to warn of upcoming rain, heavy surf and swells, and rip tides.

In North Carolina's Outer Banks, officials said they would close Cape Lookout National Seashore at 5 p.m. Wednesday and reopen when it's safe.

The motel Shutters on the Banks was completely booked for the holiday weekend, general manager John Zeller said, despite forecasts for potentially heavy rain, gusty winds and isolated tornadoes late Thursday and Friday.

"We have received some cancellations but not too many," he said. "Basically we are telling people to kind of wait and see what happens."

The motel has a 72-hour advance notice on cancellations, but Zeller said it will be waived if the storm tracks toward the area or warnings are issued.

In Folly Beach, South Carolina, dozens of people fished from the pier under sunny skies Tuesday. Others surfed on gentle swells, sunbathed and looked for shells.

In Savannah, rooms in the downtown historic district were expected to be at least 80 percent full for the holiday weekend, when crowds pack the beach on neighboring Tybee Island.

Cancellations aren't uncommon when storms approach, but those calls weren't coming in Tuesday, Marinelli said.

Amy Gaster said her Tybee Island vacation rental company had more than 200 beach homes and condos booked for the weekend, likely to be the busiest of the year. If forecasts start to show a serious threat, Gaster said her staff was prepared to send alerts to guests' cellphones.

But as long as Arthur stays offshore, she said her biggest concerns are rip currents and possible thundershowers on Thursday, when thousands are expected to pack the Georgia coast's largest public beach for fireworks.

"Hopefully Mother Nature is going to cooperate with us this year," Gaster said.

___

Associated Press writers Bruce Smith in Charleston, South Carolina, and Mike Schneider in Orlando, Florida, contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
rickydh1956 July 01 2014 at 12:15 PM

I live in Florida and we've been dodging the bullet for too many years now, hopefully we will this season also, but we have had a heat index of 107 to 110 every day. I'm afraid conditions are ripe for a hurricane or major storm.

Flag Reply +16 rate up
6 replies
manfrombighorn July 01 2014 at 12:03 PM

Should we remove Obama, maybe we would get less hurricanes.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
18 replies
brad July 01 2014 at 2:25 PM

There you have it. Proof of climate change. Send your check or money order to Al Gore now. Also, hold your breath at least twice a day to reduce your CO2 output. Also, hold in your farts. Thank you, save the planet...

Flag Reply +10 rate up
2 replies
loneshark915 brad July 01 2014 at 6:46 PM

brad, your comment was a good one the first time, second time it is just boring and a waste of time

Flag Reply 0 rate up
shaymay2 brad July 01 2014 at 7:36 PM

Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere "behaves" over relatively long periods of time. When we talk about climate change, we talk about changes in long-term averages of daily weather.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
1 reply
db1219 shaymay2 July 01 2014 at 8:13 PM

I believe that Brad was trying to be funny and make Al Gore look like the jackass that he has already made himself out to look like.

Flag +1 rate up
abudotcom July 01 2014 at 11:51 AM

Here we go again…. Another season…
Lets hope for the best.. Arthur is small storm, however, no one really knows the power of water, and Arthur is very wet storm. Good luck to all those in its path …..

Flag Reply +10 rate up
6 replies
Randy July 01 2014 at 1:28 PM

OK... just think of the money the far left media puppets from NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, MSNBC and the Weather Channel will spend while they go to the area to stand on the beach to report its raining and the wind is blowing! Wonder if the Mr. Muscle guy from the Weather Channel will need to tie himself to a palm tree? Will Al Roker get hit with a palm frond? Oh the suspense!

Flag Reply +9 rate up
1 reply
Darryl Whitter Randy July 01 2014 at 3:23 PM

What the hell does the far left media have to do with weather, what a dummy. the far right just ignores climate change so I guess you shouldn't give a dumb cows ass.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
notapclib Darryl Whitter July 01 2014 at 4:03 PM

Well, if there were any right or even moderate media outlets, its a pretty good guess they would not send people out to stand in the rain and wind to try and preach gloom and doom from something nature has been doing for the past million years... and any one with at least one functioning brain cell really do not give a "Darryl Whitter" about the myth and lies of man made global climate change... or the bonehead media fools who seem to think their standing along the ocean during the storm makes them experts.

Flag +1 rate up
blwilletthfa Darryl Whitter July 01 2014 at 6:12 PM

Maybe it's because they cannot report on important things - ie things that would make O look bad.

Flag 0 rate up
chefjohnp July 01 2014 at 12:19 PM

Well, as long as there's no property destruction or loss of life it'al be fine. Heck, with family and friends around, who cares about the weather.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
2 replies
downlosd chefjohnp July 01 2014 at 12:31 PM

Right on!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
domingbfan chefjohnp July 01 2014 at 7:14 PM

I know , i love the Hecks

Flag Reply 0 rate up
terbob3 July 01 2014 at 12:16 PM

It seems as the more technology they have, the forecasts have been far more inaccurate. I don't even pay attention to the weather forecasts. You want to know what the weather is going to be like, look out your window.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
2 replies
tomjp46 terbob3 July 01 2014 at 1:20 PM

You obviously weren't in the Northeast
for Sandy.

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1 reply
Randy tomjp46 July 01 2014 at 1:32 PM

Are you talking about the thunderstorm the New York and New Jersey used as an excuse to exhort another $6 Billion taxpayer dollars from the liberal bureaucrats in DC - yet not a dime went to the taxpaying citizens to help them with the cost of the damage they incurred - but 100's of bureaucrats got raises?

Flag +3 rate up
happy2bgridfree terbob3 July 01 2014 at 4:59 PM

Said the idiot who didn't live through Sandy. Then again, I guess the weather doesn't affect terbob3 that much .... he rarely leaves his bunker.

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TNT July 01 2014 at 12:07 PM

great, we are 15 minutes from Port Canaveral!........lovely!

Flag Reply +8 rate up
4 replies
bluetoolpro July 01 2014 at 11:58 AM

those bush's are at it again

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
Meh... bluetoolpro July 01 2014 at 12:19 PM

BOOOOOOO no politics on weather please.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
1 reply
notapclib Meh... July 01 2014 at 4:06 PM

Just as soon as the far left stops trying to make weather a political issue... it will stop.... but don't hold your breath about the left abandoning their myth, fables and fabrications about man made global climate change and just admit the global climate has been changing every second of every day since the beginning of this planet.

Flag +1 rate up
carlosward4 July 01 2014 at 12:06 PM

Does this mean the world is coming to an end?

Flag Reply +4 rate up
4 replies
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