SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Though forecast to remain far at sea while passing the Georgia coast, Tropical Storm Arthur could leave dangerous rip currents in its wake during one of the state's busiest weekends for beach vacations.
The National Hurricane Center on Wednesday predicted the storm's center will stay at least 100 miles from Georgia's beaches as it passes Thursday morning northward toward the Carolinas. Overall that's good news for the tens of thousands of tourists planning to celebrate the Fourth of July weekend on the Georgia coast.
But forecasters warned Arthur could leave turbulent seas in its wake, meaning rip currents strong enough to drag swimmers toward the open ocean could pose threats along Georgia beaches for a full day or more after the storm blows past.
On Tybee Island, which expects up to 30,000 visitors starting Thursday, lifeguards are flying warning flags while the city plans to post a roadside sign alerting beachgoers to beware of rip currents, island Mayor Jason Buelterman said Wednesday. Lifeguards will be prepared to close the waters to swimmers if the seas get too rough, he said.
"There are a lot of people who aren't familiar with rip tides because they don't live near the coast," Buelterman said. "The main thing is telling people if they have kids to be really, really careful because they can be swept out very, very quickly."
Georgia's beach resorts and parks further south — on St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island and Sea Island — are also booked solid for the weekend with about 16,000 tourists, said Scott McQuade, president of the Golden Isles Convention and Visitors Bureau.
He said the storm should be long gone by Friday night, when residents and visitors will be treated to four separate fireworks displays launched from the islands and mainland. Those with boats can watch all four almost simultaneously.
"I think our visitors are probably watching the weather as closely as we are," McQuade said. "But I think most people from what we can tell are keeping their plans and realizing this isn't going to be a major event here."
Clayton Scott, emergency management director for Savannah and surrounding Chatham County, said he expects few problems from Arthur other than rip currents.
If the Wednesday forecast holds, he said, the storm should have bypassed Georgia by the time many residents wake up Thursday morning.
"I think we dodged another one," Scott said.
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