Residents of the US East Coast battened down ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Arthur, which forecasters said is on track to become a potentially destructive category-two storm.

Forecasters from the National Hurricane Center warned of "large and damaging waves" from the storm, which is expected to make landfall in coastal North Carolina's popular Outer Banks area late Thursday and early Friday.

Thousands of vacationers scrubbed their 4 July Independence Day holiday plans amid evacuation orders.

The centre of the storm was expected to brush the Outer Banks with winds reaching up to 105 mph, according to the US National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Arthur would be the first hurricane to hit the US since Superstorm Sandy devastated New York and New Jersey in October 2012 and caused $70 billion estimated damage.

Despite growing in intensity, Arthur remained a relatively small storm, with hurricane force winds only extending outward up to 25 miles from the centre.

It is the first hurricane of 2014 Atlantic Hurricane season.

Half a million visitors had been expected to pack Carolina beaches for the national holiday, the region's biggest tourist weekend.

The Atlantic hurricane season started on 1 June and runs through 30 November.