North Carolina Braces for Irene’s Landfall on Thursday
People stocked up on food, boarded windows and gassed up their cars Tuesday (Aug. 23) as Hurricane Irene threatened to become the most powerful storm to hit the East Coast in seven years, The Associated Press reported.
The storm was likely to strengthen into a Category 4 monster by the time it makes a landfall in the U.S. this weekend, most likely hitting North Carolina. Irene could crawl up the coast Sunday toward the Northeast region, where residents aren’t accustomed to such storms.
Officials dusted off evacuation plans and readied for the first hurricane to threaten the U.S. in three years. It’s been more seven years since a major hurricane, considered a Category 3 with winds of at least 111 mph (179 kph), hit the East Coast. Hurricane Jeanne came ashore on Florida’s east coast in 2004.
On Ocracoke Island, tourists and residents were told to leave by Thursday so the island’s ferries wouldn’t be overwhelmed. But many on the 16-mile-long barrier island would probably stay, said Tommy Hutcherson, who serves on the local board that issues evacuation orders.
“I’ll be here,” said Hutcherson, who has lived on Ocracoke for 29 years. “A lot of the locals will choose to stay.”
Bob Eure, who works at the Island Tackle & Hardware in Carolina Beach, said people streamed in all day, buying flashlights and five-gallon gas cans to fill with water. Others bought fish tackle.
“With the water stirred up, the fish will bite better,” he said.
Still, Eure said, people are worried, particularly those who have moved to the area from other parts of the country.
“It’s still too early and we don’t know where it’s going to hit, but everyone is getting ready. You have to prepare yourself for the storm,” he said.
The last hurricane to hit the U.S. was Ike in 2008. The last Category 3 or higher to hit the Carolinas was Bonnie in 1998, but caused less damage than other memorable hurricanes: Hugo in 1989, Floyd in 1999 and Isabel in 2003.
Though a Category 2, Isabel cut a new inlet through Hatteras Island and killed 33 people.
In Washington, the National Park Service considered postponing Sunday’s dedication of the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. Hundreds of thousands of people were expected on the National Mall.
As far north as Maine, residents were told they could be affected by Irene.
“We need to remind people, hurricanes are not just a Southern thing. This could be the Mid-Atlantic and the northeast coast,” Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said during a conference call with reporters. “We’ve got a lot of time for people to get ready, but we don’t have forever.”