Tourists on NC's Outer Banks leaving before Irene

By MITCH WEISS | August 25, 2011 | 8:55 AM EDT

Cash Haggarty, of Washington, takes photos of the sunrise in Atlantic Beach, N.C., Thursday, Aug. 25, 2011. A hurricane watch was issued early Thursday for much of the North Carolina coast. Officials along the East Coast of the United States are calculating what they need to do if Irene becomes the first major hurricane to strike the region in seven years. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

BUXTON, N.C. (AP) — Tens of thousands of tourists on North Carolina's Outer Banks are being told to cut short vacations and flee the exposed strip of coastal villages and beaches as Hurricane Irene approaches.

An evacuation order for Dare County went into effect Thursday morning and officials estimated up to 150,000 tourists would be leaving. Authorities concerned about traffic closed schools in Dare and a neighboring county on what was to be the first day of the academic year.

Some visitors left Wednesday night to avoid traffic on the main road that cuts through many communities. As of early Thursday there was no crush of traffic, but many expected that could change.

Tourists who were leaving said they wanted to be sure they would be safe. Locals were boarding up homes and businesses.


Associated Press writers Tom Breen and Michael Biesecker in Raleigh, N.C.; Larry O'Dell in Richmond, Va.; Geoff Mulvihill in Trenton, N.J.; Brian Witte in Baltimore, Md.; Brock Vergakis in Norfolk, Va.; Johanna Kaiser in Boston; and Meghan Barr and Samantha Gross in New York contributed to this report.