RALEIGH, N.C. -- Tropical storm Arthur could bring strong winds and heavy rains to parts of the Carolinas coast, forecasters say.
Arthur, the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, is located about 345 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras as of 11 a.m. EDT Sunday and is moving northeast at about 9 mph, according to the National Weather Service. North Carolina could start to feel winds associated with the storm Sunday evening.
The tropical storm is about two weeks earlier than expected, as Atlantic hurricane season doesn't officially begin until June 1.
The storm has maximum sustained winds of 45 mph as of 11 a.m. Sunday, but it's expected to strengthen in the next 24 to 26 hours, the weather service says.
Tropical storm-force winds extend 115 miles from the center of the storm, the NWS says.
The Outer Banks are expected to feel the brunt of the impacts, with heavy rain and tropical-storm force winds expected in the area on Monday, the NWS says. A tropical storm warning was issued for the area early Sunday morning, after the storm's path shifted a bit westward and closer to the Outer Banks, McClatchy News reports.
The warning indicates that tropical storm conditions are expected in the warning area, within 24 hours in this case.
The NWS' Newport/Morehead office, which covers the Outer Banks, expects winds between 25 and 35 miles per hour, with gusts up to 45 mph.
Tropical-storm force winds are those between 39 and 73 mph, the NWS says.
The office says potential damage from winds is limited, with damage to outdoor structures and fallen tree branches or uprooted trees possible.
One to 3 inches of rain is possible on the North Carolina coast Sunday night and Monday, the weather service says. The Newport/Morehead office says 2 to 4 inches are possible, with a chance of more in some areas.
Localized storm surge and flooding are also possible in the area, the NWS says. But threats remain limited.
The weather service's Wilmington office, which covers southeastern North Carolina and northeastern South Carolina, says the storm's main threats to the area are "dangerous rip currents and elevated seas offshore." Land impacts should be minimal.
Rip currents will be at threat in the area, the NWS says.
Dangerous surf conditions are expected across the Southeast coast for the next few days, forecasters say. Swells associated with the storm could cause life-threatening rip currents.
The NWS' Charleston office, which covers the southeastern portion of South Carolina, says the storm will stay east of the area, away from the South Carolina and Georgia coast.
Showers are expected in the area into late Sunday afternoon, with a "rumble of thunder" possible. Overnight should be dry, with thunderstorms and showers expected throughout Monday, the weather service says.
Arthur is expected to turn away from the east coast and should lose its "tropical characteristics" on Tuesday, the National Weather Service says.
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