Hurricane Earl Closes In On North Carolina

Hurricane Earl is continuing its path up the Atlantic Coast. It's expected to hit North Carolina's coast Thursday night, as it heads north toward Massachusetts.

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Hurricane Earl is churning toward the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Category 2 storm is expected to skirt the barrier islands along the coast late tonight as it heads north toward Massachusetts.

Most visitors on the Outer Banks have already headed inland, but a few locals are still planning to stay and ride out the storm. NPR's Jon Hamilton reports from the beach community of Nags Head.

JON HAMILTON: With winds already starting to pick up, there weren't many tourists left on the beach this morning. But Jamie Eller(ph) and his family were out on the sand trying to squeeze in one more activity: flying a high-performance kite.

Mr. JAMIE ELLER: We decided to come have some fun just before we have to leave, let the kids enjoy a little of their vacation here. We just got this the other day.

HAMILTON: Thing pulls hard doesn't it?

Mr. ELLER: It does. It pulls really hard. In fact, with my youngest daughter weighing only about 70 pounds, if I don't hold onto her, it's not going - she's could fly away with the kite.

HAMILTON: Eller says the weather had been so beautiful, sunny and not too hot, that he and his family postponed leaving as long as they could. But they were planning to comply with the mandatory evacuation order and head home to Reston, Virginia.

Tom Latouche(ph), on the other hand, plans to stay.

Mr. TOM LATOUCHE: I'm just riding up and down on my bicycle, and I'm noticing a lot of the tourists seem to be packing up and leaving.

HAMILTON: Latouche is retired and lives in a house a few lots back from the beach.

Mr. LATOUCHE: Pretty much your residents and property owners here are probably going to stay. I mean, you like to be with your property, you know, during a situation like this. I mean, I'm not stupid, and I'm not going to risk my life, but I've been through this before and like I said, mostly a lot of wind, a lot of rain.

HAMILTON: The greatest damage from Earl probably won't be in Nags Head. Hatteras Island a few miles south is more exposed. And in places, it's little more than a sandbar. Even so, despite the threat of a major hurricane, many business owners on Hatteras say they aren't planning to leave.

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Mike Howe and his wife own a gas station and a small market in Salvo called The Blue Whale. Howe says they didn't leave during Hurricane Isabel in 2003, even though that storm actually cut right through the island.

Mr. MIKE HOWE (Owner, The Blue Whale): We stayed open just about the whole storm until the worst part of it. Then we came back down and picked up gas tanks and got our generators going.

HAMILTON: Where'd you go for the bad part?

Mr. HOWE: We have our house about a mile up the road.

HAMILTON: So you didn't leave.

Mr. HOWE: No, no, no. We don't leave the island.

HAMILTON: Ever.

Mr. HOWE: I haven't since I've been retired, and I've been retired 12 years.

HAMILTON: But Howe says he and his wife know may be stuck without power and water for days. They also expect the road that leads to the mainland to wash away. And forecasters say Earl may be more powerful than Isabel when it approaches the Outer Banks late this evening.

Jon Hamilton, NPR News, Nags Head, North Carolina.

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