Hurricane watch now in effect as Outer Banks visitor evacuation gets underway

While visitors have started leaving the Outer Banks, residents are either making preparations or going about their normal business on Tuesday. [Sam Walker photo]

A hurricane watch has been issued for much of the Outer Banks, as visitors have begun heeding the order to leave ahead of Hurricane Dorian’s potential arrival to the area before the end of the week

Current forecasts call for tropical storm force conditions to arrive along the Dare beaches by Thursday afternoon, with hurricane conditions expected on Friday.

The center of the storm, a Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 110 mph, was located about 590 miles south-southwest of Buxton as of noon.

Tuesday, 11 a.m. update from JAM Media Solutions staff meteorologist John Bernier:

A hurricane watch is typically issued 48 hours before the anticipated first occurrence of tropical-storm-force winds, conditions that make outside preparations difficult or dangerous. The watch extends from Duck south.

The National Weather Service office in Newport/Morehead City presented a briefing Tuesday morning on expected local impacts from Dorian:

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Dare County’s evacuation order went into effect for visitors at noon on Tuesday and at 6 a.m. Wednesday for residents.

On Ocracoke, evacuation of visitors began Tuesday morning, and residents starts at 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Only residents, homeowners, or vendors with an Ocracoke re-entry pass on their vehicles are being allowed on ferries inbound to Ocracoke. Priority boarding will be suspended for all vessels leaving Ocracoke, and tolls have been waived for ferries heading from Ocracoke to Cedar Island or Swan Quarter.

The Ocracoke-Hatteras, Ocracoke-Cedar Island, and Ocracoke-Swan Quarter ferry routes will run their published schedules. The final departure from Ocracoke to Swan Quarter will be Wednesday at 3:45 p.m., the final departure from Ocracoke to Cedar Island will be Wednesday at 1 pm, and the final departure from Ocracoke to Hatteras will be Wednesday at 2 p.m. The Ocracoke Express passenger ferry has concluded service for the 2019 season.

Emergency officials say now is the time to make final preparations, secure property and evacuate. Visitors should evacuate with all personal belongings and follow instructions from their property management company.

The state of emergency includes restrictions on ocean swimming due to dangerous surf conditions and strong rip currents along the beaches. Everyone must stay out of the water as it is unsafe for even the most experienced swimmers.

Those evacuating to areas north of Dare County are encouraged to travel westbound on Highway 64 to Interstate 95. Evacuating through the rural areas to the west of Dare County will help avoid traffic backups and congestion that may prolong evacuation by traveling northbound through the Hampton Roads portion of Virginia.

Tolls have been suspended for northbound traffic on the Chesapeake Expressway, Va. 168, until further notice to assist in the evacuation.

For preparedness tips and information, visit www.readync.org.

Please note that Dare County’s new online reentry permitting system is now in effect and reentry permits from previous years are no longer valid. Permanent residents may still use a valid driver’s license with a Dare County address for reentry. A current tax bill or parcel data sheet with matching current government issued ID will also suffice. To review guidelines or apply for a permit, visit www.darenc.com/reentry.

Subscribe to receive emergency alerts via text, email or phone directly from Dare County Emergency Management at www.DareNC.com/alerts and follow @DareCountyEM on Twitter.

Monitor updated local weather forecasts from the National Weather Service at www.weather.gov/mhx.

If you or someone you know has special medical needs and may need assistance during an emergency, please call the Dare County Department of Health & Human Services, Social Services Division at 252.475.5500 to register for the Special Medical Needs registry. For more information, visit www.darenc.com/specialmedicalneeds.

The next update from Dare County Emergency Management will be issued on Tuesday no later than 4 p.m.

Dare County Schools will be closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. All athletic events for this week have been postponed.

Due to the mandatory evacuation of residents, Tuesday will be the last day of early voting in Dare County for the Special Election in the Third Congressional District. Early voting locations are open until 4 p.m. at the Kill Devil Hills Town Hall and Fessenden Annex in Buxton, and until 5 p.m. at the Board of Elections Office at the Dare County Administration Building.

Nags Head’s Board of Commissioners meeting, originally scheduled for Wednesday will be postponed to Monday, September 16 at 9 a.m.

This story originally appeared on OBXToday.com. Read More local stories here.