Stay or go? NC coast under hurricane warning

Posted August 25, 2011 5:18 a.m. EDT
Updated August 26, 2011 1:11 a.m. EDT

— With the North Carolina coast under a hurricane warning, several coastal communities have ordered both residents and visitors to evacuate.

The National Weather Service issued a hurricane warning Thursday for the North Carolina coast, indicating that Hurricane Irene is expected to impact the state in the next 48 hours. The warning extends from north of Surf City to the Virginia border. 

Evacuations have been ordered for all residents and visitors in Hyde and Dare counties, as well as for visitors in Currituck and Carteret counties. Residents of Bogue Banks in Carteret County must leave by 8 p.m. Friday. The two bridges to Bogue Banks will close then, officials said.

The last time all residents were ordered to leave Dare County was in advance of Hurricane Isabel eight years ago, officials said.

Stacy Auka says the 15 members of her family – three generations – have been vacationing in Nags Head for years. They arrived last Saturday and will see their vacation cut short. 

"It's really hard on the kids, but you gotta do what you gotta do," she said.

Another family member, Patrick Lacy, said the adults debated whether to leave and decided to pack up Thursday morning.

In Morehead City, Becky Fitzula was planning to let a storm drive her out for the first time in her life.

"This one there seems to be a heightened sense of urgency on everyone's part which is a little different than most of them," she said. 

"We'd like to stay, but with two little ones under the age of 3, if we don't have power it could get hairy."

Robert Eubank dug in at home in Beaufort, ready for a hurricane party. "Once the power goes out, the party starts," he said.

Farther south, New Hanover County officials said they would declare a state of emergency at 6 a.m. Friday. No evacuations were ordered, but officials planned to open shelters for people living in flood-prone areas and to dismiss schools two hours early.

At The Blockade Runner in Wrightsville Beach, Manager Jason St. Clair said his staff had been fielding calls from guests, but they weren't quite sure how to answer.

"There have been a few calls of people concerned about the weather. However, at this point I don't think we really know what it's actually going to do," he said.

Annette Walter, visiting Wrightsville Beach for a conference, said she had decided to fly out a day early to keep ahead of the storm. "This is my second visit to North Carolina, and we started hearing about the storm, and I was just concerned with flying home safely so I wasn't stuck in the airport," she said. "I just want to get home and be safe, see my family, see my baby."

St. Clair said his staff is ready for anything.

"We're just here to accommodate the guests. If they come that's great, and it they have to cancel due to safety concerns, we certainly understand."

The National Weather Service forecast moderate flooding and winds as 70 mph in Wrightsville Beach as the storm passes. 

Likewise, Brunswick County officials called for voluntary evacuations of low-lying areas and said they would open shelters for affected residents and visitors. Schools there also plan to dismiss early Friday.

Shelters have opened in Nash and Wilson counties for visitors and residents from Hyde County. Other shelters were on standby in Halifax, Northampton and Onslow counties for other evacuees from the Outer Banks.

Ocracoke residents and visitors were asked to go to Englewood Baptist Church, 1350 S. Winstead Ave. in Rocky Mount. Mainland Hyde County residents were asked to go to Raleigh Road Baptist Church, 4150 Raleigh Road Parkway in Wilson. Pets will not be allowed in either location, but accommodations will be available and information provided upon arrival.

The state of Virginia suspended tolls on the northbound Chesapeake Expressway to facilitate travelers headed away from the Outer Banks as the storm approached.