Hurricane Irene Becomes Category 3; North Carolina Evacuates

Evacuations began Wednesday morning on a small North Carolina island as Hurricane Irene moved toward the East Coast, after leaving over 11,000 people displaced in the Dominican Republic.

Getting thousands of people off Ocracoke Island will not be an easy task because it is only accessible by boat. The North Carolina Island is home to about 800 year-round residents and the thousands of people that vacation there every summer.

According to The Associated Press, tourist evacuations began Wednesday around 5 a.m. and island residents have been told to evacuate on Thursday. The first ferry to leave the island had about a dozen cars on it and it was believed this would be the first test of whether people listen to warnings about the dangers of Irene.

Authorities reported that over 11,000 people had to flee their homes in the Dominican Republic because of the heavy rains brought by Hurricane Irene. According to the Emergency Operations Center, 9,750 of the total number of affected people are staying with family and friends; the remainder are in official centers. There is a maximum alert for a greater part of the country.

The agency also stated that 1,300 guests from three hotels in the tourist area of Bayahibe, in the eastern province of Altagracia, were moved to other floors in the buildings because of flooding caused by the rain, Fox News reported.

Hurricane Irene became a Category 3 storm as its eye headed for the Crooked and Acklins Islands in the Bahamas around 8 a.m. Wednesday morning, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Irene is moving west-northwest, and forecasters report that the core of the hurricane is expected to move across the southeastern and central Bahamas today. The hurricane will begin movement across the northwestern Bahamas on Thursday.

The storm is about 55 miles southeast of Acklins Island and around 335 miles southeast of Nassau. Hurricane Irene has maximum sustained winds of 115 mph.

The NHC reported that a hurricane warning is in effect for the southeastern, central, and northwestern Bahamas.

Based on the latest NHC projection Irene will make landfall along North Carolina’s coast around 2 a.m. on Saturday. The center stated that Irene “will likely become a major hurricane later today.”

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