Instead of the beach, evacuated tourists joined residents at shelters, taking cover as Bonnie pounds the East Coast.
One hallway is lined with sleeping bags, blankets, lawn chairs, even coolers and microwave ovens. It's so crowded, that the shelter manager says she's had to turn people away.
Nearly a half-million people had been ordered to flee from the coastal Carolinas, and a state of emergency has been declared in Virginia, though no evacuations were ordered.
"I ain't got no courage," said Billy Gilmore, who rents a house across the street from the ocean in North Myrtle Beach, S.C. "I'm getting out of here." He planned to head inland with his wife and child.
As wind picked up at Wrightsville Beach, the barrier island just east of Wilmington, police used a bullhorn to wake up Paul Houseworth at his home early Wednesday. Houseworth had decided late Tuesday to return home after leaving with his wife, Cathi Fithian. She asked police to bring him out this morning.
"It absolutely boggles my mind why he's being like this," Fithian said shortly before her husband rejoined her.
About 160 people hunkered down at a shelter at Noble Middle School outside Wrightsville Beach. Barefoot children wandered the halls, while adults tried to sleep on Army cots with pillows over their heads. Others watched small portable televisions or listened to radios.
"It's going to be a long day," said Shawna Jones, who brought her three children to the shelter. "I'm ready for it to come and go. I'm tired of waiting."
On Tuesday, vacationers grumbled but got going.
"The kids are real mad," said Nick Canderilli of Richmond, Va., as he got ready to leave Emerald Isle, N.C. "We hope we'll be back, but by then this place might be nothing but splinters."
Emergency shelters filled up, including one with more than 200 people at Swansboro [N.C.] High School, a few miles from the coast.
"This time, people have come prepared to stay for a few days. They don't expect to go home tomorrow," said Debbie Shaw, the shelter manager.
Shelters opened in 23 eastern North Carolina counties and in parts of coastal South Carolina and Virginia.