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100,000 evacuatefrom North Carolina

Some 100,000 people were streaming away from the North Carolina coast Tuesday as Hurricane Isabel closed in.

BY SUSAN KIM | BALTIMORE | September 16, 2003

"The best way to reduce anxiety is to become prepared."

—Lesli Remaly

Some 100,000 people were streaming away from the North Carolina coast Tuesday as Hurricane Isabel closed in.

In Dare County, N.C., some 75,000 people who live between Hatteras and Duck (30,000 of them permanent residents) were evacuated. Some 20,000 others were urged to leave Currituck County.

Yesterday, hundreds of residents left Ocracoke and Bald Head islands.

By Thursday afternoon, emergency management officials in that area reported traffic was moving smoothly.

A hurricane watch was posted from Little River Inlet, S.C., to Chincoteague, Va., including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds and part of Chesapeake Bay.

Isabel was weakening forecasters said the storm was a Category 2 hurricane Tuesday afternoon but emergency management officials still warned the storm could be dangerous because hurricanes can gain strength as they cross the Gulf Stream.

Forecasters said Hurricane Isabel would likely make landfall Thursday in North Carolina's Outer Banks, then churn through eastern Virginia.

As of Tuesday afternoon the storm had 105-mph winds.

North Carolina will begin feeling the effects Wednesday night, forecasters said, as tropical storm-force winds would then begin to batter that area.

Disaster response groups were pre-positioning supplies and urging people to get prepared.

Church World Service (CWS) disaster response and recovery liaisons (DRRLs) held a conference call early this week to discuss potential state impacts and to plan to pre-stage some material resources, said CWS DRRL Lesli Remaly.

"CWS is collaborating with FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] to talk about voluntary agency activity in multiple states, because one thing we're sure about is that multiple states will be affected."

CWS was making contacts within the faith community, and was planning to pre-stage some material resources. That included moving some supplies out of a warehouse in New Windsor, Md., since that location could be in the storm's path.

Emergency managers and leaders from faith-based groups were determining who key responders might be, how information might be gathered, and even how to reduce people's anxiety.

"The best way to reduce anxiety is to become prepared," said Remaly. "Have food, water and flashlights ready."

People should also be aware of any evacuation alerts or orders in their area, she recommended and they should know when it's safer to "shelter in place," or find the safest spot in their own home and ride out the storm.

The Salvation Army was readying canteens, working with government officials, and watching for evacuation plans.

Residents can get hurricane preparedness tips and evacuation information by staying tuned to their battery-powered radios or from their state and local emergency management agencies, or from the FEMA Web site.

Whatever states Isabel hits hardest, people who prepare are doing the prudent thing, said Remaly and others. "It's a good drill regardless."

In Raleigh, N.C., residents were shopping for supplies and store shelves were already running low, said Carolyn Tyler, executive director of North Carolina Interfaith Disaster Response.

In that state, in Goldsboro, people were "waiting and watching," added Barbara Tripp, executive director of the United Methodist-affiliated Marion Edwards Recovery Center Initiative (MERCI). "We have been contacting disaster response coordinators in each district and arranging for churches to be distribution points for supplies."

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has shipped 2,000 flood buckets with flood cleanup basics to MERCI, and UMCOR has another 3,000 flood buckets at its depot in Baldwin, La., ready to be shipped where they're needed.

"We're about as ready as we can be," said Tripp.

The Church of the Brethren Disaster Child Care was putting its trained volunteers on alert in several states, reported Roy Winter, who heads Church of the Brethren's disaster response ministries.

At least some forecasters said fast-moving Isabel was likely to bring more wind damage than rain, though it was still too soon to tell.

The last Category 5 Atlantic hurricane was Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which killed about 11,000 people in Central America. The most recent Category 5 hurricanes to strike the United States were Andrew in 1992 and Camille in 1969.

September is traditionally the most active hurricane month for the Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

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