Thousands Flee As Felix Nears
Thousands of people crowded bridges and ferries Tuesday, fleeing North Carolina’s Outer Banks for the mainland as Hurricane Felix took dead aim at the coast.
The sky was clear and sunny in the afternoon as the hurricane churned at 80 mph hundreds of miles out at sea, but storm surf already thundered against the beaches.
Forecasters estimated the broad storm’s mostpunishing winds would most likely hit land early Thursday along the North Carolina and Virginia coast.
Traffic through Manteo, on an island between Nags Head and the mainland, was bumper-to-bumper with cars toting surfboards strapped to their roofs and recreational vehicles pulling jet skis and boats to safety.However, at least three people already died in the surf since the weekend, and lifeguards closed East Coast beaches as far north as Maine.
In all, about 73,500 residents and tourists were told to evacuate Ocracoke Island, all of Dare County including Hatteras Island, and large parts of Carteret County on the mainland. People cannot be forced to leave.
The Navy sent warships out to open sea from the Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia to keep them from smashing into each other and their piers. Military airplanes were flown inland from coastal bases.
Hurricane warnings were posted from north of Little River Inlet in South Carolina north to Chincoteague, Va., a distance of about 420 miles.
A hurricane watch - a less severe form of advisory than a warning - was in effect for coastal areas of South Carolina, Maryland and Delaware on either side of the warning area.
Hurricane-force winds, 74 mph and up, extended out from the center up to 140 miles, and tropical storm-force winds, 39-74 mph, extending to 230 miles, the National Weather Service said.
Felix battered Bermuda on Monday, leaving thousands of residents without electricity Tuesday.
Bermuda indefinitely postponed Tuesday’s referendum on independence from Britain because of power outages and streets blocked by fallen trees.
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