Arthur zeroes in on NC coast for July 4 holiday

People walk along a flooded street near the waterfront in Manteo, N.C., Friday, July 4, 2014 after Hurricane Arthur passed through the area leaving some roads underwater. Hurricane Arthur began moving offshore and away from North Carolina's Outer Banks early Friday after hitting the state's barrier islands overnight, creating a Fourth of July holiday that saw flooding and tens of thousands of power outages. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
People walk along a flooded street near the waterfront in Manteo, N.C., Friday, July 4, 2014 after Hurricane Arthur passed through the area leaving some roads underwater. Hurricane Arthur began moving offshore and away from North Carolina's Outer Banks early Friday after hitting the state's barrier islands overnight, creating a Fourth of July holiday that saw flooding and tens of thousands of power outages. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. (AP) – The center of Hurricane Arthur is moving near North Carolina’s coast early Friday after slashing into the state’s barrier islands just ahead of Independence Day, forcing thousands to flee and much of the East Coast to shuffle holiday celebrations.

Arthur strengthened to a Category 2 storm with winds of 100 mph Thursday evening before passing over the southern end of the Outer Banks – a 200-mile string of narrow barrier islands with about 57,000 permanent residents. The islands are susceptible to high winds, rough seas and road-clogging sands, prompting an exodus that began Wednesday night.

The storm turned slightly west late Thursday, increasing the threat to mainland communities.

Hurricane Arthur has weakened to Category 1 storm in the Atlantic after bringing flooding and power outages to North Carolina’s Outer Banks overnight.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center says Arthur’s maximum sustained winds have decreased to 90 mph with additional weakening expected.

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