Some 250,000 people along the North Carolina coast are making their way inland Wednesday as authorities are ordering people in the Outer Banks to pack up and get out asnears. The barrier islands are vulnerable to a potentially deadly storm surge that could reach up to 13 feet and as much as 35 inches of rain could cause dangerous floods.
The last storm to head toward the Outer Banks on a similar path was Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Emergency officials are being explicitly clear – staying behind and riding this out could be a deadly mistake, reports CBS News' Mark Strassmann from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
The rush to prepare for Florence is in full swing. In Nags Head, Matthew Scammell spent the day boarding up his surf shop.
"Anything that's not nailed down or connected together flying into the building," Scammell said. "And I live upstairs. All of those concerns double over for myself."
Residents filled and stacked sandbags to protect homes and businesses from the threat of floodwaters while tourists – heeding dire warnings from officials – rushed to evacuate. Gas stations were busy with people filling up before filing out.
Emergency officials staggered the evacuation orders to avoid bottleneck situations, and the bridge connecting Kitty Hawk to the mainland is now a one-way road off the island. Deputies posted up to stop anyone trying to get on the barrier island except emergency crews.
"Unfortunately, Florence had other plans for us so we have to come back and try again another year. Hopefully the OBX (Outer Banks) will still be here," said tourist Eddie Stearrett from Richmond, Virginia.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued what he called a first-of-its-kind mandatory evacuation order for the barrier islands. Normally, local governments make the call on evacuations, but Gov. Cooper does not want to take any chances, warning of waves and wind like nothing the state has ever seen.