Tropical Storm Chris was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane on Tuesday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Even as a tropical storm, Chris will brought "life threatening" rough surf and dangerous rip currents along the East Coast. Minor beach erosion and ocean overwash also were expected.
North Carolina emergency officials warned coastal residents and vacationers to be cautious, citing the death of a 62-year-old Kill Devil Hills man who drowned while swimming in rough surf on Saturday.
“We are saddened that rough waters have tragically claimed a life, and I urge people along our coast to be cautious, especially if they plan to be in and on the water,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a statement Monday. “While we do not expect major impacts from this storm, we will continue to watch it closely.”
Many North Carolina beaches were closed due to heavy surf and dangerous currents caused by the storm, the governor's office said.
Wrightsville Beach Ocean Rescue said on Monday that they rescued about 20 people from the ocean on Sunday and about 75 people had been rescued since July 4.
The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the center of the storm was 200 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, on Monday and was ever so slowly – about 1 mph – drifting north.
The storm had maximum sustained winds of about 70 mph Monday evening with stronger gusts — just shy of hurricane strength. The storm was upgraded to a hurricane Tuesday at about 5 p.m.
"Strengthening is expected during the next couple of days, and Chris is forecast to become a hurricane late today or tonight," the hurricane center said on Monday. The storm was expected to accelerate northeastward late Tuesday through Thursday.
Chris was upgraded from a tropical depression to a tropical storm on Sunday.
A Category 1 hurricane has wind speeds from 74 mph to 95 mph, according to the Saffir-Simpson hurricane wind scale (SSHS).
Hurricane Beryl had been downgraded to a tropical storm by Sunday and was still on track toward Puerto Rico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean islands.