Ocracoke Island visitors ordered out ahead of Hurricane Maria

A mandatory evacuation is in effect for visitors on Ocracoke Island as Hurricane Maria’s influence hears the coast.

The order from Hyde County officials went into effect at 5 a.m. Monday.

The National Weather Service issued a tropical storm warning for much of the North Carolina coast on Sunday.

A storm Surge watch for 2 to 4 feet above ground level from Cape Lookout to Duck, including the soundside of the Outer Banks islands, also was issued Sunday.

Overnight, the National Hurricane Center expanded a tropical storm warning to cover Carteret County, all of Dare County, all of Hyde County and Tyrrell County.

A storm, surge watch was issued for Craven County and a tropical storm watch for Onslow County.

Hurricane Maria is expected to track 100 to 150 miles offshore of the North Carolina coast Tuesday and Wednesday. Tropical storm force winds of 45 mph and gusts up to 90 mph are expected along the coast beginning Tuesday afternoon and lasting through Wednesday night.

The core of the storm was producing 80 mph winds with stronger gusts Monday morning, but the storm is not expected to make landfall, according to the hurricane center.

Raleigh can expect winds to reach 20 mph, but Maria’s outer bands may not move close enough to cause any rain.

At 11 a.m. Monday, Hurricane Maria was a Category 1 storm with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph and was moving north at 7 mph. It was located 315 miles south-southeast of Cape Hatteras.

Wrightsville Beach saw more than 25 rescues because of rip currents Saturday. The Coast Guard expected gale-force winds nearing 40 mph at Beaufort Inlet by Monday and warned pleasure boats to seek safe harbor.

Rough surf, including waves rising between 14 to 20 feet, and life threatening rip currents are expected.

Gov. Roy Cooper asked North Carolinians to prepare ahead of the storm’s arrival.

“Heavy ocean surf will be very dangerous all week. Deadly rip currents will be present and some storm surge flooding is possible,” said Gov. Cooper. “Visitors to our beaches should stay out of the water during these dangerous conditions and wait until Maria passes. Coastal residents should make sure they are ready and their homes are prepared.”

The N.C. Emergency Operations Center was activated Monday morning to monitor the storm.

“This activation will include Emergency Management staff who will communicate with the counties and our State Emergency Response Team partners in order to allow us to provide any needed resources,” said Mike Sprayberry, emergency management director.