Evacuation Underway on Eve of Hurricane Irene Arrival
Thousands are fleeing an exposed strip of coastal villages and beaches off North Carolina today (Aug. 25) as Hurricane Irene approached, threatening to become the first major hurricane to hit the East Coast in seven years, The Associated Press reported.
Hours after a hurricane watch was issued for much of the state's coast, emergency officials expanded evacuation orders to include more than 200,000 tourists and locals in three coastal counties. Three counties along North Carolina's coast — Dare, Hyde and Currituck — ordered tourists to leave. Dare and Hyde also told permanent residents to move inland.
The areas include the barrier island chain known as the Outer Banks, which is expected to take the brunt of Irene's first hit over the weekend.
The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey made emergency declarations to free up resources, while the Navy began moving dozens of ships in Irene's path out to sea. And emergency officials all the way to New England were urging residents in low-lying areas to gather supplies and learn the way to a safe location.
The storm is expected to come ashore Saturday in North Carolina with winds of around 115 mph (185 kph). Forecasters predict it will then chug up the East Coast, dumping rain from Virginia to New York City before a much-weakened form trudges through New England.