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As Hurricane Earl Nears, East Coast Prepares

Red flags warn would-be swimmers from the ocean at Kure Beach, N.C., as waves increase from Hurricane Earl beyond the horizon, Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2010. Bruce Smith/Associated Press hide caption

toggle caption Bruce Smith/Associated Press

Officials in several East Coast states issued warnings and watches Wednesday due to Hurricane Earl, now churning northward in the Atlantic Ocean. Precautions included evacuation orders for residents and visitors in parts of North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Dare County, NC officials issued a bulletin calling for evacuations of Hatteras Island to begin Wednesday evening. Officials believe hurricane force winds could reach the Outer Banks late Thursday or Friday morning or sooner.

After losing some of its punch and being downgraded earlier in the day, Hurricane Earl later regained power and was upgraded Wednesday to a category 4 with sustained winds of at least 135 mph.

An excerpt from the Dare County, NC bulletin:

Dare County has announced a mandatory evacuation for all residents and visitors on Hatteras Island effective at 6:00pm Wednesday, September 1. The latest storm track has shifted Hurricane Earl to the west putting hurricane force winds over Hatteras Island early Friday morning.

The evacuation order for both residents and visitors of Hatteras Island does NOT apply for areas north of Oregon Inlet. At this time, the order does NOT include the towns of Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Southern Shores, Roanoke Island or mainland Dare County.

As Dare County Emergency Management closely monitors the storm, residents and visitors should be prepared for the possibility of additional evacuations that may be needed tomorrow for mainland and northern portions of Dare County.

And the Associated Press reported the following:

Vacationers along North Carolina's dangerously exposed Outer Banks took advantage of the typical picture-perfect day just before a hurricane arrives to pack their cars and flee inland, cutting short their summer just before Labor Day weekend.

The governors of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland declared states of emergency, sea turtle nests on one beach were scooped up and moved to safety, and the crew of the Navy's USS Cole rushed to get home to Norfolk, Va., on Wednesday ahead of the bad weather.

The destroyer was supposed to return later this week from a seven-month assignment fighting piracy off Somalia.

Farther up the East Coast, emergency officials urged people to have disaster plans and supplies ready and weighed whether to order evacuations as they watched the latest maps from the National Hurricane Center - namely, the "cone of uncertainty" showing the broad path the storm could take.

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