9:25 p.m. update: As of the 9 p.m. update, the National Hurricane Center says Arthur’s peak winds have increased to 100 mph making it a Category 2 hurricane. The storm is 110 miles southwest of Cape Hatteras, moving north-northeast at 15 mph.

Satellite and radar view of Arthur from 5:45pm. (NOAA, CoD)
Satellite and radar view of Arthur from 5:45pm. (NOAA, CoD)

Original post from 6:45 p.m.: Hurricane Arthur is bearing down on North Carolina’s Outer Banks and promises to wallop the area with damaging winds, heavy rain, and significant coastal flooding overnight into Friday morning.

Since this morning at 8 a.m,, Arthur’s peak sustained winds have increased from 80 mph to 90 mph, and could still go up further.  If the peak winds surpass 95 mph overnight, it would become a Category 2 storm – which is totally possible.  In fact, the NHC forecast indicates a peak intensity of 100 mph at landfall near Beaufort NC on Cape Lookout.

Link: Hurricane Tracking Page 

Latest radar image, courtesy National Weather Service.

As of 5:30 p.m, the center of the well-defined eye is located just 45 miles south of Wilmington, NC and it’s tracking north-northeast at about 12mph.  This motion will place the western eyewall over land for the rest of the night. Landfall will occur very late tonight most likely over the Outer Banks.

So far today, the beaches of South Carolina and North Carolina have been visited by excited surfers and curious onlookers.  The highest winds are still found offshore and in the eastern eyewall.  There is very rough surf and a high risk of rip tides, along with beach erosion and coastal flooding.

I grabbed this shot from a webcam in Carolina Beach, NC at 5:30 p.m., and it’s pretty representative of the scenes so far.  Tonight, further up the coast, the scenes will turn more severe and destructive.

Rough seas at Carolina Beach, NC… 5:30pm. (surfchex.com)
Wind fields and watches/warnings as of 5pm. (NOAA) Wind fields and watches/warnings as of 5pm. (NOAA)

Tropical storm warnings have been extended to include extreme southern Virginia, and extreme eastern Massachusetts.

The wind field is growing some, and as of 5 p.m., tropical storm force winds extend out to an average of 110 miles, and hurricane force winds to an average of about 25 miles from the center.  In the graphic to the right, the areas impacted with tropical storm (orange) and hurricane (maroon) force winds are highlighted, and coastal watches and warnings are drawn.

Some key areas to watch out for overnight and into Friday night are coastal areas of North Carolina, Virginia, and Massachusetts.

Cape Lookout, NC: Peak winds occur around midnight… sustained 90-95 mph, gusts to 110-115 mph.  Torrential rain, storm surge 3-5′.

Cape Hatteras, NC: Peak winds 2-4 a.m,… sustained 80-85 mph, gusts to 100-105mph.  Torrential rain, storm surge 2-4′.

Virginia Beach, VA: Peak winds 10 a.m.-noon… sustained 25-30 mph, gusts to 40mph.  Periods of heavy rain, storm surge 1-2′.

Cape Cod, MA: Peak winds 1-3 a.m.Saturday morning… sustained 30-35 mph, gusts to 40-45mph.  Periods of heavy rain, storm surge to be determined (too far out).

As the storm sweeps across the Outer Banks, the biggest dangers will be storm surge, flash flooding, and falling trees and power lines.  People immediately on the coast who are vulnerable to storm surge should not shelter in place, but evacuate to higher ground.

The latest track forecast is shown below:

Capital Weather Gang’s Jason Samenow provides a video overview of the storm below:

The National Hurricane Center expects Arthur to make landfall as a Category 2 hurricane on the morning of July 4, with peak winds around 105 mph. The Post's Jason Samenow gives an updated forecast for the holiday weekend. (Tom LeGro and Jason Samenow/The Washington Post)