CHARLESTON, S.C. — Emergency officials are ordering a mandatory evacuation of a fragile barrier island along North Carolina's Outer Banks as Tropical Storm Arthur approaches.
Dare County officials said Wednesday that the mandatory evacuation of Hatteras Island would begin at 5 a.m. today. After that time, no one will be allowed on the island.
The officials said residents and out-of-town visitors who may already have arrived for the Fourth of July weekend should evacuate during daylight hours before the tropical storm brings high winds, rough seas, dangerous rip currents and possible flooding on North Carolina Route 12. The two-lane highway is the only way on and off the island other than ferries to the south.
The National Hurricane Center has issued a hurricane warning for all of Dare County. Arthur is expected to become a hurricane by today.
"We want everybody to be safe and prepared, but we are not overly concerned at this point," said Lee Nettles, the executive director the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. He noted that forecasters were predicting the storm would move fast and be less severe than others in locals' memories.
But flooding concerns remained: Twice in recent years, storm-driven waves have sliced North Carolina Route 12, the main road along the islands, rendering it unpassable. On Ocracoke Island, accessible only by ferry, a voluntary evacuation was announced.
Stores saw runs on generators, lanterns and flashlights, but even some workers weren't yet concerned.
"I've been through Irene. I went through Isabelle," said Bill Motley, who works at Ace Hardware in Nags Head and has lived on the Outer Banks for 13 years. "I'm not even worried about this one. I'm more worried about my tomato plants. With the wind coming, if we get a 50-mph gust, it will knock over my tomato plants."
At a news conference, Gov. Pat McCrory advised residents, "Don't put your stupid hat on." With concerns of rip tides, he urged surfers and swimmers not to get in the water regardless of how good the waves might be.
"Our major goal is to ensure that no lives are lost during this upcoming storm," including those of emergency workers, McCrory said. He declared a state of emergency for 25 coastal and adjoining counties.