With Hurricane Irene taking aim on North Carolina, officials at Cape Hatteras National Seashore and Cape Lookout National Seashore were shuttering campgrounds and facilities, closing beaches, and directing visitors to leave the area.
As of 5 p.m. EDT Wednesday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was predicting that the North Carolina coastline would take a direct hit from the storm by Friday. Wind speeds along the coastline were expected to hit 110 mph by Saturday afternoon. Storm conditions were forecast to last into Sunday.
"In anticipation of this weather event, all NPS campgrounds, Ocracoke, Frisco, Cape Point and Oregon Inlet, will close at noon today, Wednesday, August 24," officials at Cape Hatteras National Seashore announced. "The Ocracoke Campground reservation system has been temporarily suspended. The Silver Lake Marina NPS docks will close at noon today, Wednesday, August 24, 2011.
"The Ocracoke Visitor Center, Hatteras Island, Bodie Island and Wright Brothers and Fort Raleigh Visitor Centers will remain open until close of business today, Wednesday, August 24, then will remain closed until further notice," the statement added. "Previously scheduled evening programs for August 24 are cancelled. Lifeguard beach operations at Ocracoke, Buxton, and Coquina Beach will close at 5 p.m. today, Wednesday, August 24 until further notice."
The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse also was closing Wednesday at 6 p.m. EDT until further notice. All park special programs scheduled for Founder’s Day, Thursday, August 25th, have been cancelled. Regularly scheduled fall Interpretive programming will resume after the storm passes the area. The Flags Over Hatteras event, scheduled for August 25-28, has been postponed until further notice due to the threat of Hurricane Irene.
In preparation for the storm, Ocracoke beaches were being closed to off-road vehicles as of 6 p.m. Wednesday; all other beaches in the seashore will close to off-road vehicles by 6 p.m. on Thursday.
At Cape Lookout, just south of Cape Hatteras, officials implemented their emergency weather evacuation plan. The seashore planned to evacuate all visitors from the seashore beginning on Thursday morning. The seashore will be closed to all visitors (including overnight guests staying in the cabins and day visitors) and all services will be shut down, beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday, and remain closed from that time on, until further notice, a park release said.
To allow staff to prepare seashore facilities for the storm, Portsmouth Village, the Light Station Visitor Center, Keepers’ Quarters Museum and Cape Lookout Lighthouse climbing were to close beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday.