Hurricane Arthur Makes History With Its Landfall

Hurricane Arthur is dampening the July Fourth weekend along the eastern seaboard. It's the earliest hurricane to make landfall in North Carolina since records began in the mid-19th century. For more, Robert Siegel speaks with Jeff Masters, the director of meteorology for the Weather Underground.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel. Hurricane Arthur didn't pay the calendar any attention. The first hurricane of the Atlantic season arrived ahead of schedule and just in time for the holiday weekend. Arthur has now been downgraded to a Category 1 storm after hitting the North Carolina coast last night and early this morning, disrupting some festivities. Winds of up to 100 miles per hour hit the coast, flooding roads and local businesses.

MAYOR JAMIE DANIELS: Some of our older stores that are built below base flood did get about six inches of water in them.

SIEGEL: That's Jamie Daniels, mayor of the town of Manteo in North Carolina.

DANIELS: This could have been a lot worse, thank goodness. Some of our stores lost some merchandise. We've got to spend some time cleaning up, but nobody was hurt. Everybody's safe in Manteo today, so we're thankful for that.

SIEGEL: And now people in New England are preparing for the storm. A tropical storm warning is in effect for Massachusetts, for Nantucket and Cape Cod, through this evening. At The Lobster Pot, a restaurant in Provincetown, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, owner Joy McNulty says the impending storm hasn't affected business yet. But she can't say the same for some of the Fourth of July events in the area.

JOY MCNULTY: The fireworks were postponed. Yesterday was crazy; it was so busy. A year ago today, we had a really, really busy day. We can sometimes do 1,200 or 1,300 meals. I'm not sure what we'll do today.

SIEGEL: For more on this storm, we're going to turn now to Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at Weather Underground. Welcome to the program.

JEFF MASTERS: Thank you.

SIEGEL: How unusual is it for a hurricane to form this early in the season? And what caused this to happen?

MASTERS: It's common to get hurricanes this early in the season, but it's uncommon to have them hit North Carolina. This is the earliest we've ever seen a hurricane hit North Carolina in the year, going back to 1851.

SIEGEL: And why - why would this happen?

MASTERS: We have some unusually warm ocean temperatures off the coast of Florida where this storm formed. And it formed from a cluster of thunderstorms that happened to move off the coast - just kind of a random occurrence. The thunderstorms created a little area of low pressure with some spin and got out over the warm waters of the Gulf Stream and just happened to spin up into a hurricane.

SIEGEL: Well, is an unusually early hurricane hitting North Carolina a harbinger of an active hurricane season?

MASTERS: No, it's not necessarily because what we really worry about for an active hurricane season are the tropical waves coming off the coast of Africa. Eighty-five percent of all major hurricanes form from these tropical waves. And Arthur did not form from a tropical wave. And when you get really warm conditions in the Caribbean and low levels of wind shear, that's what we look for for an active season. And if you get stuff forming in June and July down in the Caribbean, now that is a harbinger of an active season.

SIEGEL: And when the next hurricane comes, what will she be named and why?

MASTERS: It'll be named Bertha. We've got a rotating list of names that repeats every six years unless we retire one. And storms named Bertha have appeared before but never been strong enough to get their names retired.

SIEGEL: And they alternate men's names and women's names, on-off.

MASTERS: That's right. It goes Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly this year.

SIEGEL: Cristobal?

MASTERS: Yeah. We haven't had a Cristobal before, I don't think.

SIEGEL: (Laughing) OK. Well, thanks. Thanks for talking with us about Arthur today.

MASTERS: All right. You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's Jeff Masters, director of meteorology at Weather Underground. He spoke to us from Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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