Arthur became the first Atlantic hurricane of the season early Thursday.
A mandatory evacuation of Hatteras Island along the Outer Banks began at 5 a.m. and a voluntary evacuation was announced for Ocracoke Island.
Hurricane Arthur is presently located off the South Carolina coast and is moving slowly northward, bringing strong winds, heavy rain, and dangerous rip currents.
"This is no time to put your stupid hat on," North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory told CNN's "New Day," warning people to stay out of the ocean.
"Don't get brave just because you see some good waves out there," he said. "Stay out of the water ... and make sure we don't have to come rescue you and put our emergency workers in jeopardy."
Arthur is packing maximum sustained winds of 80 mph and is forecast to reach the Outer Banks late Thursday night and early Friday morning, the National Hurricane Center reported.
While Arthur is not forecast to make landfall in the Northeast, surging tropical moisture will combine with a cold front moving through the region producing heavy rain that will produce flooding.
As a result, Flood Watches are in effect from southern Maine to Virginia.
Fourth of July celebrations could be impacted by heavy downpours and beach goers will have to be aware of continued rip current threats.
The impacts from the storm will diminish over the weekend as Arthur moves away from the coast and into the Canadian Maritimes.
SEE IMAGES FROM OUR CNN TEAMS IN THE FIELD BELOW
Arthur approaches the beach in Wilmington, N.C. on Thursday morning. Photo credit: Javier de Diego.
In a photo from de Diego, a windsurfer in Wrightsville Beach, N.C. is undeterred as rain and wind pick up from Hurricane Arthur.
CNN's Alina Machado shares this image of ominous clouds in Wrightsville Beach, N.C., later in the morning Thursday.
Indra Petersons waits for Hurricane Arthur in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Photo credit: Yon Pomrenze.
4th of July fireworks are under tarps in Kill Devil Hills, NC. Photo credit: Indra Petersons
Follow: Indra Petersons, Yon Pomrenze, Alina Machado & Javi de Diego for more.
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