Stampede to Avoid Emily BeginsBy Mary Jordan
The Washington Post
The stampede to avoid Hurricane Emily started at the General Store at 5 a.m., as some of the tens of thousands of people being evacuated today from coastal islands stopped for hotcakes.
"The shop was so busy, I had to call in three extra people," said Keith VanCuren, who owns the General Store one mile across Currituck Sound from Duck. Overnight, that popular vacation spot became a virtual ghost town as officials ushered people off North Carolina's Outer Banks and coastal areas.
Emily, whose maximum sustained winds were 95 mph, was on a course that forecasters said could bring it ashore in the Outer Banks region as early as Tuesday afternoon. A hurricane warning was posted from Bogue Inlet, 20 miles southwest of Morehead City, N.C., to the Virginia line.
At 8 p.m., Emily was reported about 260 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., and moving west-northwest about 8 mph, according to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Coral Gables, Fla. Hurricane-force wind extended 35 miles from its center, and sustained winds could strengthen, they said.
Most people in the predawn traffic jam here had driven the seven miles on Rte. 158 from the Wright Memorial Bridge, northernmost of two two-lane spans that connect the mainland with the Outer Banks. Many stopped at the General Store to eat 99-cent hotcakes and try to put off believing that winds raging far at sea had just stolen their last week of summer vacation.
"We just bought $400 worth of groceries," said Lee Crosby, director of Your House, Inc., a youth center in Leesburg, Va. "We left a lot of it back there at the cottages because it had to be refrigerated."
Only Sunday, Crosby and his group of 17 teenagers and adults had settled in for a beach week near Duck. Now, they were driving toward an emergency shelter in Wilson, Va.
"They said it was about an hour and half away in the Wilson High School," said Crosby's wife, Cindy, who like almost everyone else at the General Store was watching television accounts of Emily's latest gyrations.
While the Crosbys planned to stay on cots in a school gymnasium, others were jamming every hotel and motel for more than 100 miles inland, authorities said.
North Carolina residents were driving into Norfolk and back with plywood for their windows. Farmers formed makeshift vegetable stands along major roads, offering reduced prices. Twenty-pound watermelons were going for 75 cents.
"The fields of corn are probably going to be blown flat," said Tillie Powell, owner of Powell's Market not far from here on Rte. 158. "We are going to shut up all the doors and get in all the furniture."
Neon highway signs warned that visitors were barred from returning to the Outer Banks, and residents had identification checked before gaining access to many blocked roads.