Hurricane Arthur strengthens to Category 2 as it nears North Carolina

WATCH ABOVE: Global News meteorologist Anthony Farnell has an update on the progress of Hurricane Arthur.

KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. – Hurricane Arthur strengthened into a Category 2 hurricane late Thursday, with winds increasing to 161 km/h as it neared the U.S. East Coast.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said that little additional change in strength was expected Thursday night and Friday and that the storm would begin weakening Friday night.

On Thursday night, Arthur was located about 90 kilometres northeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and about 165 kilometres southwest of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. It was moving northeast at 24 km/h.

READ MORE: What Hurricane Arthur will unleash on Atlantic Canada

Arthur forced thousands of vacationers in North Carolina to abandon their Independence Day plans, while cities farther up the U.S. East Coast rescheduled fireworks displays threatened by the storm.

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Arthur was expected to weaken Friday as it travels northward along the East Coast. The annual Boston Pops Fourth of July concert and fireworks show was rescheduled for Thursday because of potential heavy rain, while fireworks displays in New Jersey and Maine were postponed until later in the weekend.

“We don’t know for sure if the exact centre of Arthur is going to pass over land or not. The chances have been increasing for that to occur with the last couple of forecasts,” said Rick Knabb, the director of the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Arthur, the first named storm of the Atlantic season, prompted a hurricane warning for much of the North Carolina coast.

If Arthur makes landfall in the U.S. on Friday, it would be the first hurricane to do so on July Fourth, according to National Hurricane Center research that goes back to the 1850s.

Associated Press writers Martha Waggoner in Raleigh, North Carolina; Tony Winton in Miami; and Matt Small in Washington contributed to this report.