The first tropical storm of the season is expected to become a hurricane by midday Thursday as it churns off the Southeastern United States coast. Tropical Storm Arthur was packing winds of 60 mph and moving north at 9 mph about 90 miles east of Cape Canaveral, Florida at 5 am on Wednesday morning.

The storm is expected to strengthen and turn north-northeast and then northeast brushing by the Outer Banks of North Carolina and turning out to sea east of Southern New England. The $64,000 question is "how close will it come to Southern New England on its way by early in the weekend?" At this point, it looks like the storm will be far enough away that all but the Cape and islands will be spared gusty winds, but the tropical system combined with a cold front could lead to locally heavy rain on the 4th of July and Friday night.

Track the storm at

The weather for the South Coast breaks down like this...Wednesday will be partly sunny, breezy to windy, warm and humid. Highs inland will be in the mid to upper 80s, and the beaches will be near 80. Patchy fog is possible Wednesday night, and a thunderstorm cannot be ruled out. Lows will be near 70.

Thursday also looks partly sunny, with a chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon. Highs will be in the low to mid 80s as it stays breezy and very humid. The cold front that may trigger the storms will slow or stall over Southern New England as it interacts with Arthur. Scattered heavy downpours are possible Thursday night and Friday, but it's difficult to know at this point where they will set up. It is not out of the realm of possibility that coastal SE MA could be mainly dry in that timeframe, but it's probably best to have a contingency plan if you have an outdoor event or party scheduled for the 4th.

Tropical Storm Arthur is poised to become a hurricane and threaten the Carolinas

It looks like the best chance of rain is Friday night into early Saturday as the storm passes east of Nantucket. The heaviest rain is likely to be closest to the center of the storm on Cape Cod and Nantucket. Those areas may also see 30-40 mph wind gusts mph late Friday night into early Saturday. Of course, there is potential for stronger winds if the storm comes closer than currently forecast. According to the National Hurricane Center, New Bedford currently has a 30% chance of seeing 40 mph winds, while it's 50% on Nantucket.

The weather will improve quickly on Saturday, but Arthur will churn up the ocean as it moves by, and large waves may lead to a high rip current risk at area beaches. So, while it may be a nice weekend to be at the beach, swimming could be dangerous or off limits for a time.