by Staff Writers
Hatteras, North Carolina (AFP) Aug 25, 2011
The US Navy Thursday ordered all its ships away from its huge port at Hampton Roads, Virginia, as the eastern US seaboard braced for the destructive-strength Hurricane Irene.
"Ships will make final preparations overnight in anticipation of getting underway early August 25 (Friday)," a Navy statement said.
Vice Admiral Daniel Holloway, commander of the US 2nd Fleet, said that the decision to send the ships from Hampton Roads is based on Hurricane Irene's current track that indicates the storm will produce at least 50 knots of wind and a large storm surge.
Irene is a category three hurricane on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale, and is forecast to strengthen to a category four storm with winds of 135 miles (217 kilometers) per hour by the time it reaches the US coast over the weekend.
Along the coastline North Carolina, directly in Irene's path as its forecast to skirt north, officials ordered mandatory evacuations for tourists.
"The forecasted destructive winds and tidal surge is too great to keep the ships in port. There is a much greater potential of not only the ships being damaged, but also the pier infrastructure," said Holloway, adding that the ships would fare better storms of such magnitude out at sea.
"Having the ships underway also makes them ready and available to respond to any national tasking, including any needed disaster response efforts in the local area after the storm has passed," he said.
The National Weather Service puts the hurricane either making landfall on the Outer Banks or skirting just east of the barrier islands.
Sparsely populated in the winter, many of the islands are a popular tourist destination in the summer.
Affie Meekins, 55, works for the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center on the Outer Banks, and said despite being directly in the path of the hurricane, like a number of other residents, she refused to leave.
"We're picking up what needs to be picked up and battening down the hatches," Meekins told AFP.
"I don't evacuate. I'm a tough one," she added.
Some sought to take advantage of the waves ahead of the big storm
At the Sweetwater Surf Shop in Wrightsville Beach, Alex Winslow said he was out surfing and saw more than 40 other surfers out before 8 am Thursday.
"The surf is still really clean and really fun," said Winslow, a student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
For many counties along the coast, today was to have been the first day of school. The three eastern-most counties in the path of the storm cancelled classes for the first day of school and instead will open Monday.
Hurricane Irene pounded the Bahamas Thursday before its approach to the populous US east coast, punishing the nation of small islands with heavy rain and powerful winds.
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Hurricane Irene threatens islands, US east coast
Grand Bahama, Bahamas (AFP) Aug 23, 2011
Hurricane Irene bore down on the Bahamas Tuesday as a category one storm, churning on a track that could see it slam the US mainland later in the week. Forecasters who downgraded Irene, now packing winds of 90 miles (150 kilometers) per hour, said it could still become a major hurricane by Wednesday as it swirls past a series of islands toward the US east coast. At 0000 GMT, Irene was ce ... read more
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