Gov. Bev Perdue held a hastily-called news conference Thursday morning to warn residents of eastern North Carolina to get ready for Hurricane Irene.
Recent forecast trends seemed to be pushing Irene out toward the Atlantic, but this morning's forecast brought the storm back toward NC's coastline. The most recent forecast predicts Irene will be a Category 3 hurricane when it makes landfall somewhere around Ocracoke.
"This is a serious threat to North Carolina," Perdue said. "Irene is a big storm. We know there will be strong surges."
"We don't know where this track will end up, but at this point, all of us need to take this storm very seriously," she warned.
Perdue said FEMA is standing by, the National Guard is deployed, the Red Cross is on the ground, and volunteers are in position to help with disaster relief should it be needed.
She said she was disappointed to see how slowly the evacuation of Ocracoke began yesterday. "I understand that folks don't take it seriously, but Ocracoke is sitting out there in the middle of the water, and if you have a 115 mph wind - it may not be that much, I'm not trying to over-exaggerate - you just don't know. It's a little island if you have a bad surge."
State Emergency Management director Doug Hoell said the evacuation had picked up speed and is now well underway and running smoothly. He said Dare County has also begun directing tourists to evacuate.
Perdue said information on emergency shelters is available online. She says it's up to county officials to decide whether to evacuate, and if so, when to allow re-entry.