(CBS News) OCEAN CITY, Md. - The mayor of Ocean City ordered a mandatory evacuation of the low-lying southern portion of a coastal Maryland island Sunday in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy, and most people are listening.
The center of the hurricane is still far out at sea, but her awesome power is already being felt on the fragile barrier island on the Maryland coast.
Thousands of vacationers and residents are fleeing.
"We're heading home, away from the hurricane," said one woman carrying boxes.
Mayor Rick Meehan said last year Ocean City got lucky, for the most part dodging Hurricane Irene.
Meehan said he doesn't expect the city to get so lucky this time around.
"I think we're probably already further along with this storm than we were with Irene," he said. "The ocean is angry right now and we're going to see a storm surge."
It is a surge that could raise sea levels 8 feet above normal, enough to flood much of the city.
Police are urging, but not forcing, people in the evacuation zone to leave.
Most are heeding their advice -- the boardwalk is all but abandoned.
But some, like surfer Brian Dean, have decided to stay.
"We've got everything pretty well situated, bunkered down, generators, [we'll] hang out, ride it out. We rode out Irene last year, it wasn't that bad," he said.
But the experts say this storm could be much worse than Irene, even in Maryland and further up the coast in New Jersey.