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North Carolina and its fragile Outer Banks braced for a blow from Hurricane Arthur on Thursday as the storm gained strength, took aim and threatened to wash out Fourth of July plans farther north along the East Coast.

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At 2 p.m. ET, the storm packed winds of 90 mph and was churning about 70 miles off the coast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters said it would probably be a Category 2 storm, meaning winds of greater than 95 mph, when it brushed the Outer Banks later in the day. Some parts of the islands were evacuated, and a tornado warning was posted around Wilmington, near the South Carolina line. Farther north, major cities in the Northeast expected heavy rain on Friday, and July Fourth plans were moved or shelved. Boston moved its holiday Pops concert up a day, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, rescheduled its fireworks display for Sunday.