State officials say residents in eastern North Carolina should prepare for the worst if Hurricane Irene brings high winds to the area. Visitors began leaving Ocracoke Island this morning and local officials have issued a mandatory evacuation for residents starting tomorrow. Governor Bev Perdue asked coastal residents this morning to prepare an evacuation plan.
Bev Perdue: "We want folks there to take this storm seriously and to get prepared. We do this regularly in North Carolina. We know how to do it. We are preparing for the worst. Get that plan together today... please."
Forecasters now say Irene will likely pass just east of the Outer Banks. It's expected to be a category 3 hurricane when it approaches North Carolina Friday night.
Latest forecast information from the National Huricane Center here.