Arthur weakening, downgraded to tropical storm

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MANTEO, N.C. (AP) — Hurricane Arthur has been downgraded to a tropical storm as it churns north toward Canada.

The storm's winds weakened to 70 mph (110 kph) Saturday morning. Arthur was moving at about 22 mph and located about 65 miles southwest of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

A tropical storm warning remains in effect for Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, from the U.S.-Canada border to Grand-Anse.

Arthur previously swiped North Carolina's barrier islands without causing major damage or injuries. The only highway between Hatteras Island and the mainland was washed out, and officials hoped to reopen it sometime Saturday.

Rain from Hurricane Arthur disrupted some New York-area Independence Day celebrations but cleared in time for the nation's largest fireworks display in the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Businesses on two of North Carolina's barrier islands hoped to salvage the rest of the holiday weekend after Arthur clipped the state without causing major damage as it churned north toward Nova Scotia, Canada.

The storm's maximum sustained winds were about 75 mph (125 kph) early Saturday morning. Arthur was moving at about 31 mph and located about 75 miles southwest of Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

In North Carolina, some homes and businesses were flooded, trees toppled and initially thousands were without electricity after Arthur raced through the Outer Banks on Friday, but no deaths or serious injuries were reported. Independence Day fireworks were postponed. About 20 feet of the fragile road connecting Hatteras Island with the rest of the world buckled and required repairs.

The hurricane's effects were mostly confined to Hatteras and Ocracoke islands, and some vacationers were already back on beaches to the north and south on Friday.

Gov. Pat McCrory expressed relief and started encouraging vacationers to return to the beaches, a message echoed by locals.

"This ain't no damage at all. Everybody will be able to come back probably," Lindell Fergeson of Manteo said after driving around to view the aftermath. "It just held up the Fourth (of July) for a little bit, but everything will be open again."

John Wilson was at work Friday sucking water off the floor of the flooded Manteo building he rents to an art gallery. He felt lucky that the building along the town's waterfront only took a foot of water.

"We'll be back in business in a day or two," Wilson said.

The storm that struck the state's southern coast late Thursday as a Category 2 hurricane quickly moved north Friday to cloud the skies over the Delaware and New Jersey shores. Rain from Hurricane Arthur disrupted some New York-area Independence Day celebrations but cleared in time for the nation's largest fireworks display in the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Tropical storm warnings were in effect for coastal areas as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and southeastern Canada. Forecasters predicted the storm would weaken before its center moved over western Nova Scotia in Canada early Saturday.

North Carolina officials worked to restore access to Hatteras Island on the island's only road. The state Transportation Department said it was aiming to restore traffic on North Carolina Highway 12 sometime Saturday, when many vacationers were due to start their weeklong cottage rentals.

Farther south, Ocracoke Island's electricity distribution system was badly damaged by Arthur, leading officials to order residents to quit using air conditioners and water heaters so that generator-supplied power could provide refrigeration and other necessities during a cycle of planned outages. A nightly curfew between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. was declared until power was fully restored. Vacationers were being coaxed to leave with the offer of free ferry rides out.

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Associated Press reporter Jerome Bailey Jr. contributed to this report.

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Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio.

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