With Hurricane Earl taking aim at the North Carolina coastline -- and points north -- officials at Cape Lookout National Seashore have ordered an evacuation of the seashore, while a bit farther north Cape Hatteras National Seashore officials were closing visitor centers and campgrounds.
Tuesday afternoon the National Weather Service issued a hurricane watch for North Carolina's Outer Banks as Earl, at the time about 1,000 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras, headed to the northwest with 135 mile-per-hour winds.
At Cape Lookout, Superintendent Russel J. Wilson ordered a mandatory evacuation of all visitors from the seashore islands beginning Wednesday evening. The park will be closed to all visitors and services as of 5 p.m. on Wednesday until further notice, he said in a release.
The weather service was predicting that the effects of Hurricane Earl will impact the Outer Banks Group units -- Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Wright Brothers National Memorial -- by Thursday, with storm conditions continuing through Friday, said Park Service officials.
As a result, Cape Hatteras officials announced that on Wednesday the Ocracoke Visitor Center would close at noon and the Hatteras Island, Bodie Island, Wright Brothers and Fort Raleigh visitor centers would close at 5:00 p.m. The Ocracoke, Frisco, Cape Point and Oregon Inlet Campgrounds were scheduled to close at 12:00 noon Wednesday. In addition, the Ocracoke Campground reservation system has been temporarily suspended.
The last climb for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse will be at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, and the lighthouse will close at 3:00 p.m.
By Thursday, seashore officials expected to see ocean over-wash and rough surf conditions that would create unsafe conditions on seashore beaches. Off-road vehicle use will be prohibited until safe conditions allow for this recreational activity, the officials said.