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Ocracoke braces for Hermine; mandatory visitor evacuation issued today

Hermine at 5 p.m. Thursday

Hermine at 5 p.m. Thursday

For Ocracoke other news, click here.Sept. 1, 2016 7:02 p.m.

The Hyde County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously this afternoon (Sept. 1) to declare a state of emergency for Hyde County and a mandatory evacuation for visitors of Ocracoke Island effective at 6 p.m. 

During the mandatory evacuation, visitor access will be temporarily restricted until further notice and all ferry routes serving Ocracoke will be on a first-come, first-served basis, which means priority passes are not honored during evacuations and tolls are temporarily waived for the Pamlico Sound routes.  

Only residents, homeowners, or vendors with an Ocracoke re-entry sticker on their vehicles will be allowed on ferries inbound to Ocracoke, said Tim Hass, Ferry Division spokesman.

To view the Hyde County declarations, click here.

All Cape Hatteras National Seashore visitor services on the island are suspended and facilities are closed, which includes the campground, Visitor Center and bookstore, the lighthouse, all beach access ramps and off-road vehicle routes on Ocracoke closed at 5 p.m. today, according to an NPS notice.

Once the mandatory visitor evacuation is lifted and areas are determined safe for visitation, the Park Service will reopen facilities ramps and routes.

Hermine officially became a hurricane early this afternoon and is moving from the Gulf to the Florida Panhandle with an expected landfall early Saturday morning.

The storm is expected to move north into Eastern North Carolina Friday afternoon or evening which by then, will have weakened back to a tropical storm.

The exact track of the storm is still uncertain and Gov. Pat McCrory issued a state of emergency for 33 eastern counties that are expected to experience the worst of the storm. He urged people to be prepared for heavy rain, wind and possible flooding.

Ferry access during the evacuation and until wind speeds prevent ferries from running will only be for residents and vendors with the proper re-entry credentials, Hass said.

Ferries to and from Hatteras Thursday afternoon traverse the calm waters of the Pamlico Sound. Photo: C. Leinbach

Ferries to and from Hatteras Thursday afternoon traverse the calm waters of the Pamlico Sound. Photo: C. Leinbach

The Ferry Division has expressed serious concern for rising water levels in the Pamlico Sound. If the water level continues to rise, the Hatteras-Ocracoke ferries may not be able to utilize the loading docks.

Therefore, it is imperative that visitors choose to leave Ocracoke leave as soon as possible. Property owners and vendors entering Ocracoke today or tomorrow must realize there is a possibility they may not be able to get off the island via Hatteras.

The National Weather Service issued a Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for the area from Oregon Inlet South, including the Pamlico Sound and most inland Counties and a flash flood watch has been issued for the entire area. 

The expected amount of rain and wind is still speculative, but estimates 5- to 8-inch rainfall amounts will be possible with isolated amounts up to 10 inches. This could be accompanied by flash flooding.

Wind speeds could be wind speeds of 35 to 45 mph are possible with gusts 55 to 60 mph.

People should be concerned about isolated tornadoes in the affected area. s could be sustained around 40 mph with gusts up to gusts from 50 to 60.

Seas could be in the 12- to 16-feet range with a tidal surge around one to two feet and dangerous rip currents.

Gov. Pat McCrory today issued a state of emergency for 33 eastern NC counties, including Hyde.

The order is to facilitate the movement of any resources that may be needed to respond to and recover from the storm.

In addition to Hyde, the affected counties are Beaufort, Bertie, Bladen, Brunswick, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Gates, Greene, Hertford, Hoke, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Pender, Perquimans, Pitt, Robeson, Sampson, Tyrrell, Washington and Wayne counties.

McCrory also issued an executive order that waives certain truck restrictions on weight and hours of service in order to facilitate quicker storm response.

Ocracoke School announced that students would be dismissed at 11:10 a.m. Friday morning.

Tideland Electric Membership Corporation, has activated its emergency response plan in preparation for the remnants of Hermine. The co-op completed testing today of its text messaging system which is used to provide outage updates to affected consumers.

All Tideland personnel are actively preparing vehicles and equipment for possible storm duty both on the mainland and Ocracoke.

The co-op has no plans to shut power off in advance of the storm.

Hyde County’s advisory said that anyone who chooses to stay on Ocracoke for Hermine does so at their own risk and should be prepared to sustain themselves for several days in the event of flooding, downed trees, and/or loss of power.

Ocracoke waves beach PS IMG_3803

The ocean waters off Ocracoke are expected to get stormy. Photo: P. Vankevich