RALEIGH (Mark Price/Charlotte Observer and Dawn Baumgartner/News&Observer) - The governor of North Carolina has ordered the evacuation of barrier islands as Hurricane Dorian approaches.
The mandatory state evacuation for all barrier islands on the North Carolina coast from the Virginia line to the South Carolina line is effective at 8 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4.
Gov. Roy Cooper issued an executive order saying that the state is under an “imminent threat” from the hurricane that is expected to pass or make landfall “on or about the evening” of Sept. 4.
The storm is expected to affect eastern North Carolina later this week, but much of the state will see Dorian’s effects in the form of rain and possible flooding.
Cooper requested a federal emergency declaration for the state on Monday, which would make federal aid available to North Carolina for hurricane preparation and relief.
The Outer Banks of North Carolina could be the closest Hurricane Dorian comes to landfall later this week, and officials wasted no time in warning people to evacuate by Wednesday.
As barriers islands, the Outer Banks can easily become a trap for tourists and residents once torrential rain starts to cover side roads and storm surge washes out the only highway, N.C. 12.
By then, the ferries will have long since stopped running, offering little chance of escape.
A sense of urgency on the islands began Sunday, when Cape Lookout National Seashore was the first to call for tourists to leave the national park by Tuesday.
Dare County — which encompasses nearly one-third of the Outer Banks — followed by announcing a mandatory evacuation of tourists and residents, including the entire populations of Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head and Manteo.
Hyde and Carteret counties to the south of Dare also declared a state of emergency, with Hyde canceling ferry rides to the islands and warning residents to have an evacuation plan ready.
The governor said on Tuesday for residents to follow any earlier evacuation orders from local authorities, too.
“We have seen the life and death effects of this storm in the Bahamas, and we urge everyone on the islands at the coast to leave,” Cooper said in a news release.
The order says the hurricane could pose significant risk of injury and death as well as property damage.
“Please keep in mind that highways along the coast frequently suffer overwash during periods of surge and everyone should make their evacuation plans accordingly,” Hyde County officials said in a press release.
Carteret County, which includes the Bogue Banks area south of Cape Lookout, warned citizens Monday night that it “anticipates to issue a mandatory evacuation” of multiple coastal communities by noon Wednesday, including the Down East waterfront area.
A voluntary evacuation will be in effect for other parts of Carteret County, including popular Emerald Isle, officials said.
“With the current stall of Hurricane Dorian, residents are urged to take advantage of the time to plan and prepare,” the county said in a release.
Currituck County to the far north of the Outer Banks has not announced an evacuation decision but alerted residents of the threat.
“Remember, Currituck does not have pre-storm shelters so have an evacuation plan in case it is necessary to leave the area,” the county warned on Facebook.
Most school districts along the coast have also canceled classes starting Wednesday or say they will discuss cancellations Tuesday.
UNC Wilmington announced Monday that it will shut down the campus at 5 p.m. Tuesday and called for a mandatory evacuation of students and staff.
Forecasters expect Dorian to be a Category 2 or 3 hurricane by the time it reaches the Carolinas. The storm has stalled over the Bahamas, causing mass destruction with heavy winds and rain.
Florida began feeling the outer bands of rain on Tuesday, when the storm’s center was still 110 miles to the east.
Dorian currently has sustained winds of 115 mph and is moving northwest at 1 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“The hurricane will then move dangerously close to the Florida east coast late (Tuesday) through Wednesday evening, very near the Georgia and South Carolina coasts Wednesday night and Thursday, and near or over the North Carolina coast late Thursday,” forecasters predict.