Updated 11:34 p.m. E.T. Thursday.
Hurricane Arthur has finally made landfall near the southern end of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Arthur reached land around 11:15 p.m. on Thursday between Cape Lookout and Beaufort, N.C.
Arthur was a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 100 m.p.h. (160 km/h) and was located about 65 miles (105 km) southwest of Cape Hatteras, N.C., the Associated Press reported. It is moving northeast at 18 m.p.h. (30 km/h).
Fourth of July plans came to a screeching halt for many across the U.S. on Thursday, as the effects of a Category 1 hurricane began to work their way up the East Coast, causing flight delays and cancellations, and evacuations in some critical areas.
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.
One such passenger was David Luterman, who did his best to ignore the turmoil around him, reading a magazine in front of Gate 2 in Reagan National’s Terminal A, waiting to take off on what should have been a 3:40 p.m. Jet Blue flight to Boston. “Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize,” a Jet Blue employee announced over the loudspeaker around 5:45 p.m. “We’re just waiting for the lightning to clear for the ramp to open so we can land, disembark and clean the plane to continue on to Boston. We hope to have you on your way as soon as possible.”
Three hours later, that flight still hadn’t boarded.
Luterman had hoped make it back to his Boston-area home to spend the holiday weekend with his family. “I really want to get home,” he said.
Washington remained under a severe-storm warming until 9 p.m. Thursday. Tropical-storm warnings were also issued Thursday afternoon for Nantucket Island and parts of Cape Cod in Massachusetts, AP reported, though the full brunt of the storm itself likely won’t reach that far north until late Friday.
At the next gate over, a woman who only wanted to be known as H.R. clutched in one hand the remnants of a three-hour-old salad, her son’s tickets, passport and her iPhone in another. She was trying to get her 13-year-old son to Toronto where his five cousins were eagerly awaiting his two-week visit. That flight and one to Montreal were canceled.
“I booked a flight to Thailand for myself months ago,” H.R. said. “I leave tomorrow but if I can’t get him out,” she said, poking her lanky son who towered over her, “I can’t go. The other airline isn’t going to be sympathetic about Air Canada’s cancellations.”
Every gate in the terminal had people stacked in line, haggling with gate agents over tickets and delays. The walls were lined with would-be passengers as empty seats were not to be found. “It’s going to be a long night,” said John Henry, whose flight to Miami for a bachelor party was already two hours delayed. He and his buddies had already downed a few beers at the airport bar. “But I feel like I went straight to hangover. This is un-fun.”
Arthur’s current estimated trajectory has it grazing North Carolina’s northern seashore by Friday morning, prompting officials to order a mandatory evacuation of Hatteras Island — one of the many barrier islands making up the Outer Banks, where a quarter of a million people were projected to converge for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, according to the Associated Press. “Don’t put your stupid hat on,” North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said at a press conference Thursday, after declaring a state of emergency in 25 coastal counties, urging swimmers and surfers to avoid the ocean in light of the impending storm. “Our major goal is to ensure that no lives are lost during this upcoming storm,” McCrory said.
Here’s the latest storm track, via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
Hurricane Arthur is forecasted to weaken by Friday night and become a post-tropical cyclone by Saturday.