Hurricane warnings issued; evacuations begin

Sep 1, 2010 by


A hurricane warning was issued late Wednesday morning for parts of the North Carolina coast, and Hurricane Earl’s approach touched off evacuations on some Outer Banks islands.

The warning affects an area stretching from Bogue Inlet, near Camp Lejeune, northward to the North Carolina-Virginia border. That includes all of the Outer Banks area, including Albemarle and Pamlico sounds.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for the area from Bogue Inlet southward to Cape Fear, near Wilmington.

That means all of the North Carolina coast is covered by some type of warning, except Brunswick County between Wilmington and the South Carolina line.

Ferries began carrying vacationers and residents off Ocracoke Island before daybreak Wednesday, as authorities along the Outer Banks prepared for Thursday’s expected close encounter with Hurricane Earl.

Earl’s top sustained winds decreased a bit overnight, from 135 mph to 125 mph. But as a Category 3 storm, it remains a major hurricane, and forecasters say it will pass close enough to the coast to cause major problems.

Authorities in Dare and Hyde counties along the Outer Banks took the cautious route, deciding to order evacuations more than 24 hours before the worst of the storm is expected to arrive.

Dare County officials decided Wednesday morning to order a mandatory evacuation of all visitors from Hatteras Island. Residents of the island are not affected. Dare authorities also said the evacuation does not apply for areas north of Oregon Inlet.

Hyde County authorities began evacuations of Ocracoke Island at 5 a.m. Wednesday. That includes the estimated 5,000 visitors and 800 full-time residents.

A number of tourist attractions in the area — including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse and campgrounds on the Outer Banks — will be closed this afternoon.

N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue encouraged residents to prepare for the storm.

“While it is still too early to tell exactly what impact Hurricane Earl will have on our state,” she said, “we all bear a responsibility to ensure we are ready for any type of emergency.”

N.C. Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said bulldozers and other equipment are ready to go, filled with fuel. The DOT also is preparing barricades and electronic signs, in addition to briefings on storm preparations.

Conti said the state is even moving ferries into place, in case large-scale evacuations are necessary.

Meanwhile, the American Red Cross said its 14 emergency response vehicles have been readied for possible use. Kate Meier, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross, said the vehicles can be used as mobile feeding stations after disasters.

At 8 a.m., the center of Hurricane Earl was 780 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, and the storm was moving toward the northwest at 16 mph. Little change is expected today in Earl’s strength or course.

But forecasters said the science of meteorology isn’t precise enough to guarantee Earl’s strongest winds won’t come ashore.

“Even a small error in the track – of 100 miles – could make a huge difference in the storm’s impact,” said Bill Read, National Hurricane Center director.

And even if the hurricane’s eye remains offshore, forecasters still expect tropical storm-force winds, battering waves and dangerous rip currents to affect the Outer Banks. Those waves and rip currents are predicted to affect all of the Carolinas coast through Friday.

“With tropical storm-force winds, there will be some tree damage,” Read said. “With full foliage at this time of year, tree damage usually means power outages.”

The hurricane is expected to affect only areas east of Interstate 95. The storm is not expected to have any impact on weather in the Charlotte area, where sunshine and hot temperatures are predicted to remain through Friday.

BEACHES AFFECTED BY WATCHES

Hurricane warning areas

Emerald Isle

Morehead City

Harkers Island

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Ocracoke Island

Buxton

Avon

Rodanthe

Nags Head

Kill Devil Hills

Kitty Hawk

Duck

Corolla

Tropical storm warning areas

Surf City

North Topsail

Topsail Beach

Wrightsville Beach

Carolina Beach

Not included under any watches

Brunswick County beaches (Holden, Ocean Isle, Sunset, etc.)

Grand Strand

From the Charlotte Observer, Steve Lyttle, reporter

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Mandatory Evacuation for Visitors on Hatteras Island

Sep 1, 2010 by

A mandatory evacuation has been issued for all Hatteras Island visitors effective immediately. The Dare County Control Group met this morning to assess the storm and issued the order in anticipation of high waves along the oceanfront of Hatteras Island. The evacuation order facilitates visitors leaving Hatteras Island before high seas produce overwash on NC Highway 12 which will impede safe travel.

The evacuation is only for visitors on Hatteras Island and does not apply for areas north of Oregon Inlet. The order does not include the towns of Duck, Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Southern Shores, Roanoke Island or the mainland of Dare County.

The Dare County Control Group will continue to closely monitor the storm’s progress and will assess whether further evacuation orders are necessary.

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for all of Dare County and the North Carolina Coast from north of Surf City to Virginia, including the Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. A hurricane watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the next 36 hours.

Dare County Emergency Management is closely monitoring the progress of Hurricane Earl and urges all residents and visitors to take necessary precautions for possible hurricane force winds as the storm is expected to pass approximately 80 miles off the Outer Banks early Friday morning.

The National Park Service has announced the closure today of Visitor Centers and Campgrounds. The Ocracoke Visitor Center will close today at 12:00 noon and the Hatteras Island, Bodie Island, Wright Brothers and Fort Raleigh Visitor Centers will close today at 5:00pm. The Ocracoke, Frisco, Cape Point and Oregon Inlet Campgrounds are scheduled to close today at 12:00 noon. The last climb for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse will be today at 2:00pm with the lighthouse closing at 3:00pm. By Thursday, expected surf conditions will create unsafe conditions on Seashore beaches and off-road vehicle use will be prohibited until safe conditions allow for this activity.
Protective measures should be taken to secure property. Everyone should complete preparation activities, such as storing all loose outside objects. In advance of any hurricane, everyone should prepare an emergency kit including nonperishable food, water and clothing to sustain each family member for three days. The kit should also include a flashlight, radio, spare batteries, and medications. Blankets, rain gear and appropriate footwear are also recommended. The kit should include photocopies of important family documents, such as birth certificates and insurance policies.

Residents and visitors are encouraged to monitor local news outlets for further advisories from the National Weather Service and state and local emergency management officials. Bulletins will be issued as needed and available at www.darenc.com and on Government Access Channel 20.

More info here.

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Asheville chosen as #1 best small city

May 28, 2010 by

For all of us who have discovered the many wonderful attributes of Asheville, NC, it comes as no surprise that the readers of AmericanStyle Magazine selected  “the Land of the Sky” as their favorite small city for the May 2010 issue.

One of the most picturesque cities in the southeast, Asheville has been a tourist destination since before the turn of the 20th Century.  Although Asheville continues to draw visitors and vacationers from all over the globe, it is also known for the high standard of living available to full-time residents.

Here is an excerpt from the article describing the reasons folks find Asheville a great place to live, as well as an entertaining destination.

A walk along the streets of Asheville will prove why it deserves this honor, from the Art Deco buildings seen all over the city (including the town’s city hall) to the more than 50 galleries representing every medium. Reader Mark Flowers, of Alexander, N.C., explains, “Asheville’s creative scene runs from the visual art, the handmade craft arts, the music arts, down to the amazing small brewery arts. It’s a total package that brings me downtown whenever I am near.”

With two new public arts programs, Asheville is undergoing a downtown renaissance. In the city’s historical center, known as Pack Square, a new park opened this spring. Along with lush green space, Pack Square Park features an interactive water fountain (aptly named “Splashville”), an amphitheater decorated with handmade tiles, and original works of art by local artists.

Local artists also inspired the new Asheville signage program. More than 300 signs direct visitors and residents to almost 90 attractions, but what makes these signs special is in the details. The city’s artists were commissioned to create unique sign elements in the form of blown glass, bronze and wrought iron.

* * *

We agree with the magazine’s assessment, but must add that there is much more that propels visitors as well as residents to wax poetic over Asheville.  Whether living in the city or visiting, there are continual new layers to discover, with something for everyone, regardless of age.  From outdoor activities to cozy restaurants, charming boutiques, farmer’s markets, romantic hideaways, elegant resorts,  and a lively arts scene, Asheville truly exceeds expectations–year round.

Read the complete article on all 25 cities here.

More info and photos from Romantic Asheville

Photo credits: Romantic Asheville, Laura Boone, Betty Pegram

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Life is a Road . . .

May 19, 2010 by

We happened across this story from Daniel Meyer’s book, “Life is a Road, Get on it and Ride,” and thought our readers may enjoy it as much as we did.  Meyer has produced several books, based on his  musings about life while traveling the highways of America on a motorcycle.  This story had us laughing, and then checking to find Meyer’s blog: http://lifeisaroad.com/blog/

Demonic Squirrel Riding Story

I never dreamed slowly cruising through a residential neighborhood could be so incredibly dangerous!

Studies have shown that motorcycling requires more decisions per second, and more sheer data processing than nearly any other common activity or sport. The reactions and accurate decision making abilities needed have been likened to the reactions of fighter pilots! The consequences of bad decisions or poor situational awareness are pretty much the same for both groups too.

Occasionally, as a rider I have caught myself starting to make bad or late decisions while riding. In flight training, my instructors called this being “behind the power curve.” It is a mark of experience that when this begins to happen, the rider recognizes the situation, and more importantly, does something about it. A short break, a meal, or even a gas stop can set things right again as it gives the brain a chance to catch up.

Good, accurate, and timely decisions are essential when riding a motorcycle…at least if you want to remain among the living. In short, the brain needs to keep up with the machine.

I had been banging around the roads of east Texas and as I headed back into Dallas, found myself in very heavy, high-speed traffic on the freeways. Normally, this is not a problem, I commute in these conditions daily, but suddenly I was nearly run down by a cage that decided it needed my lane more than I did. This is not normally a big deal either, as it happens around here often, but usually I can accurately predict which drivers are not paying attention and avoid them before we are even close. This one I missed seeing until it was nearly too late, and as I took evasive action I nearly broadsided another car that I was not even aware was there!

Two bad decisions and insufficient situational awareness…all within seconds. I was behind the power curve. Time to get off the freeway.

I hit the next exit, and as I was in an area I knew pretty well, headed through a few big residential neighborhoods as a new route home. As I turned onto the nearly empty streets I opened the visor on my full-face helmet to help get some air. I figured some slow riding through the quiet surface streets would give me time to relax, think, and regain that “edge” so frequently required when riding.

Little did I suspect…

As I passed an oncoming car, a brown furry missile shot out from under it and tumbled to a stop immediately in front of me. It was a squirrel, and must have been trying to run across the road when it encountered the car. I really was not going very fast, but there was no time to brake or avoid it—it was that close.

I hate to run over animals…and I really hate it on a motorcycle, but a squirrel should pose no danger to me. I barely had time to brace for the impact.

Animal lovers, never fear. Squirrels can take care of themselves!

Inches before impact, the squirrel flipped to his feet. He was standing on his hind legs and facing the oncoming Valkyrie with steadfast resolve in his little beady eyes. His mouth opened, and at the last possible second, he screamed and leapt! I am pretty sure the scream was squirrel for, “Banzai!” or maybe, “Die you gravy-sucking, heathen scum!” as the leap was spectacular and he flew over the windshield and impacted me squarely in the chest.

Instantly he set upon me. If I did not know better I would have sworn he brought twenty of his little buddies along for the attack. Snarling, hissing, and tearing at my clothes, he was a frenzy of activity. As I was dressed only in a light t-shirt, summer riding gloves, and jeans this was a bit of a cause for concern. This furry little tornado was doing some damage!

Picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and leather gloves puttering maybe 25mph down a quiet residential street…and in the fight of his life with a squirrel. And losing.

I grabbed for him with my left hand and managed to snag his tail. With all my strength I flung the evil rodent off the left of the bike, almost running into the right curb as I recoiled from the throw.

That should have done it. The matter should have ended right there. It really should have. The squirrel could have sailed into one of the pristinely kept yards and gone on about his business, and I could have headed home. No one would have been the wiser.

But this was no ordinary squirrel. This was not even an ordinary pissed-off squirrel.

This was an evil attack squirrel of death!

Somehow he caught my gloved finger with one of his little hands, and with the force of the throw swung around and with a resounding thump and an amazing impact he landed square on my back and resumed his rather anti-social and extremely distracting activities. He also managed to take my left glove with him!

The situation was not improved. Not improved at all. His attacks were continuing, and now I could not reach him.

I was startled to say the least. The combination of the force of the throw, only having one hand (the throttle hand) on the handlebars, and my jerking back unfortunately put a healthy twist through my right hand and into the throttle. A healthy twist on the throttle of a Valkyrie can only have one result. Torque. This is what the Valkyrie is made for, and she is very, very good at it.

The engine roared as the front wheel left the pavement. The squirrel screamed in anger. The Valkyrie screamed in ecstasy. I screamed in…well…I just plain screamed.

Now picture a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a slightly squirrel torn t-shirt, and only one leather glove roaring at maybe 70mph and rapidly accelerating down a quiet residential street…on one wheel and with a demonic squirrel on his back. The man and the squirrel are both screaming bloody murder.

With the sudden acceleration I was forced to put my other hand back on the handlebars and try to get control of the bike. This was leaving the mutant squirrel to his own devices, but I really did not want to crash into somebody’s tree, house, or parked car. Also, I had not yet figured out how to release the throttle…my brain was just simply overloaded. I did manage to mash the back brake, but it had little affect against the massive power of the big cruiser.

About this time the squirrel decided that I was not paying sufficient attention to this very serious battle (maybe he is a Scottish attack squirrel of death), and he came around my neck and got IN my full-face helmet with me. As the faceplate closed partway and he began hissing in my face I am quite sure my screaming changed tone and intensity. It seemed to have little affect on the squirrel however.

The rpm’s on The Dragon maxed out (I was not concerned about shifting at the moment) and her front end started to drop.

Now picture the large man on the huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a very ragged torn t-shirt, and wearing one leather glove, roaring at probably 80mph, still on one wheel, with a large puffy squirrel’s tail sticking out his mostly closed full-face helmet. By now the screams are probably getting a little hoarse.

Finally I got the upper hand…I managed to grab his tail again, pulled him out of my helmet, and slung him to the left as hard as I could. This time it worked…sort-of. Spectacularly sort-of, so to speak.

Picture the scene. You are a cop. You and your partner have pulled off on a quiet residential street and parked with your windows down to do some paperwork.

Suddenly a large man on a huge black and chrome cruiser, dressed in jeans, a torn t-shirt flapping in the breeze, and wearing one leather glove, moving at probably 80mph on one wheel, and screaming bloody murder roars by and with all his strength throws a live squirrel grenade directly into your police car.

I heard screams. They weren’t mine…

I managed to get the big motorcycle under directional control and dropped the front wheel to the ground. I then used maximum braking and skidded to a stop in a cloud of tire smoke at the stop sign at a busy cross street.

I would have returned to fess up (and to get my glove back). I really would have. Really. But for two things. First, the cops did not seem interested or the slightest bit concerned about me at the moment. One of them was on his back in the front yard of the house they had been parked in front of and was rapidly crabbing backwards away from the patrol car. The other was standing in the street and was training a riot shotgun on the police cruiser.

So the cops were not interested in me. They often insist to “let the professionals handle it” anyway. That was one thing. The other? Well, I swear I could see the squirrel, standing in the back window of the patrol car among shredded and flying pieces of foam and upholstery, and shaking his little fist at me. I think he was shooting me the finger…

That is one dangerous squirrel. And now he has a patrol car…

I took a deep breath, turned on my turn-signal, made an easy right turn, and sedately left the neighborhood.

As for my easy and slow drive home? Screw it. Faced with a choice of 80 mph cars and inattentive drivers, or the evil, demonic, attack squirrel of death…I’ll take my chances with the freeway. Every time.

And I’ll buy myself a new pair of gloves.

More about Meyer here, including how to obtain his books.

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