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Thursday, August 25, 2011
States Scrambling For Irene's Arrival
Thousands were fleeing an exposed strip of coastal villages and beaches off North Carolina on Thursday as Irene approached, threatening to become the first major hurricane to hit the East Coast in seven years.
About 180,000 tourists and residents in coastal Dare County have been told to leave, and forecasters issued a hurricane watch for much of the state's coast. To the north in Virginia, dozens of Navy ships began leaving their port to ride out the storm at 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.
Irene could hit North Carolina's Outer Banks on Saturday afternoon with winds around 115 mph (185 kph). It's predicted to chug up the East Coast, dumping rain from Virginia to New York City before a much-weakened form reaches land in Connecticut.
As the sun rose over the barrier islands, tourists packed suitcases in their cars, while locals stocked up on food, water and gas. Traffic was moving briskly Thursday morning on the two-lane highway that cuts through many of the coastal communities, but many feared that would change.
"It's going to be a mess," said 66-year-old Buxton resident Leon Reasor as he stood inside a local bait shop. "Anyone who tells you they're not worried is a liar."
An evacuation order for an estimated 150,000 visitors took effect Thursday in Dare County, while its 35,000 permanent residents were told to begin leaving the next day.
"It wouldn't behoove anyone to stay in these circumstances," Dare County emergency management spokeswoman Sharon Sullivan said. "Businesses are boarding up. Nobody can guarantee their safety."
Craig Fugate, the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, urged people to find out if they are in an area that could need to evacuate, figure out which local official would give the order and pay attention to local broadcasters for that information. Among the most important tasks, he said, was figuring out a safe place to go before hitting the road.
"When you evacuate, you want to know where you're going and make sure you have somewhere to go, not just get on the road with everybody else and hope you find some place," Fugate said Thursday on CBS's "The Early Show."