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East Coast Residents Move Inland as Hurricane Earl Approaches

September 2, 2010 at 8:35 PM EST
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JIM LEHRER: The East Coast kept a weather eye on the sea today, waiting for the arrival of Hurricane Earl. The storm weakened some during the day, but still had winds of 115 miles an hour.

In Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, the day dawned on a relatively calm sea. But a few hundred miles out in the Atlantic, the hurricane swirled ever closer to the state’s Outer Banks.

MAN: This eye looks like it’s about 25 miles wide.

JIM LEHRER: The center of the storm was forecast to stay just offshore tonight, as it turned north to move up the Eastern Seaboard. But the threat of hurricane-force winds extending 90 miles from the eye was enough to push thousands of people inland.

MAN: Oh, it’s serious. I think it’s a serious hurricane. It — it could get real dangerous in a hurry. So, why take a chance?

MAN: With the weather coming in, and the rain and the wind, it’s not very conducive to, one, my fishing, and two, our children. And, so, we just thought it was best that we would go ahead and head on out.

JIM LEHRER: Ferry service to North Carolina’s Ocracoke Island stopped running this afternoon, and Governor Bev Perdue said evacuating was clearly the smart choice.

GOV. BEVERLY PERDUE(D-NC): Those evacuations are serious. You know, I live on the coast. And when they tell you to get out, you really have to think of — take that message seriously. The tourists are taking it seriously. The residents are not mandatorily required to evacuate, but many of them are in the process of evacuating, too.

JIM LEHRER: By late today, warnings and watches extended from Bogue Inlet, North Carolina, all the way to Hull, Massachusetts, including the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. In Canada, parts of Nova Scotia were also under a hurricane watch. Across Long Island, New York, the Red Cross readied shelters for the storm’s arrival there, expected by tomorrow night.

CRAIG COOPER, Red Cross: There are 25 shelters in each county, for a total of 50. The amount of capacity is an ample number of people. It is well in excess of 10,000 to 15,000 people that can be supported by those shelters.

JIM LEHRER: For those who did stay to ride out Earl, walks along windy beaches would have to do. Officials imposed swimming bans up and down the coast, as conditions worsened during the day.