OUTER BANKS, NC -- Dare County officials have ordered a mandatory evacuation for residents and visitors on Hatteras Island as Hurricane Arthur draws closer to the North Carolina coast.
The mandatory evacuation order for residents and visitors began at 5 a.m. on Thursday. No access is being allowed into Hatteras Island at this time.
All Hatteras Island residents and visitors are advised to evacuate as expediently as possible during daylight hours before the effects of Hurricane Arthur begin to bring high winds, rough seas, dangerous rip currents, and the potential for water and sand overwash on NC Highway 12.
"[We] just got into Cape Hatteras yesterday. We flew in from Boston and we are heading out today. I'd love to stay and rough it up, it's beautiful here, but we don't know if we'll be able to get off the Island to make our flight on Sunday," said tourist Beatrice Stewart.
Before the storm, tourism officials had expected 250,000 people to travel to the Outer Banks - a 200-mile string of narrow barrier islands with about 57,000 permanent residents - for the holiday weekend. At a news conference Thursday, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory urged people not to jeopardize their safety for holiday plans.
“With our coastal communities bustling during one of the biggest weekends for tourism in the region, the safety of our coastal residents and visitors remains our top priority,” said McCrory. “I urge everyone to stay informed, be ready and stay safe. We anticipate a beautiful holiday weekend once Hurricane Arthur clears out.”
Hyde County officials declared a countywide state of emergency Wednesday, as well as a voluntary evacuation for Ocracoke Island, which is accessible only by ferry. They also announced a curfew for Ocracoke Island between 8 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. Friday morning.
"As of now Ocracoke is expected to encounter sustained winds of tropical storm force beginning between 9 -10 p.m. on Thursday and subsiding by 10 a.m. on Friday," officials said in a press release Wednesday afternoon.
According to N.C. Department of Transportation, the Ferry Division began around-the-clock service from Ocracoke to Hatteras Islands Wednesday. Service will be suspended after 5 p.m. Thursday, officials said. Sound-side ferry service will be suspended after 4 p.m.
NCDOT says all repairs made to the Bonner Bridge earlier this year have been completed.
The bridge has been inspected and deemed safe for motorists during the storm. As a precaution, NCDOT has divers on standby who will reinspect the bridge following the storm.
Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency for 25 coastal and adjoining counties Wednesday.
McCrory urged residents and visitors to "not put your stupid hat on" as North Carolina prepares for Hurricane Arthur.
McCrory reminded people that most injuries and deaths occur before and after a storm. He urged people to not act selfishly, saying that if they put themselves in harm's way, they also endanger emergency workers who must try to rescue them.
NCDOT is moving equipment and crews in place along the coast ahead of the storm.
Along the Outer Banks, crews are staging motor graders, excavators, bulldozers and front-end loaders in Buxton, Kitty Hawk, Ocracoke and Pea Island. NCDOT has more equipment ready to mobilize, if needed, as well as employees prepared to patrol N.C. 12 during and after the storm.
“While the current forecast does not indicate Arthur will cause major damage, we are taking this storm very seriously,” said Emergency Management Director Mike Sprayberry. “Emergency management personnel, in conjunction with our federal, state and local partners, are ready to support the counties in preparation, response and recovery efforts as needed.”
North Carolina National Guard has deployed 30 Soldiers for State Active Duty, several Humvees and other high-water vehicles to the Kinston NCNG Armory on order from Governor Pat McCrory in case Arthur threatens life and property.
FEMA has deployed liaisons to the emergency operations centers in North Carolina and South Carolina along with an Incident Management Assistance Team to North Carolina to coordinate with local officials, should support be requested or needed.
The Coast Guard Captain of the Port North Carolina set Port Condition Zulu for the Port of Morehead City, Thursday, in anticipation of weather impacts due to Hurricane Arthur.
Gale Force winds (34 knots or 39 mph) are expected to reach Frying Pan Shoals Lighted Buoy 16 within 12 hours. Pleasure craft are advised to seek safe harbor.
The Port of Morehead City is closed to all inbound and outbound traffic. No vessel may enter, depart, or transit without the permission of the COTP. All cargo and bunker handling operations must cease at this time. A safety zone has been established prohibiting vessels movement and activities unless specifically authorized by the COTP.
All commercial vessels and barges who have received permission from the COTP to remain in port must be at their mooring site in accordance with their plan.
The Port of Wilmington remains at Modified Port Condition Whiskey.
Click here for updated information for ports in North Carolina.