Mandatory evacuation for Ocracoke Island visitors goes into effect Monday morning

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OCRACOKE, N.C. — A mandatory evacuation order for people visiting Ocracoke Island goes into effect at 5 a.m. Monday in advance of Hurricane Maria.

A Tropical Storm Watch has been issued for Surf City to the North Carolina-Virginia border, although Maria is not expected to make landfall.

Tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch areas beginning Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Forecasters expect “dangerous surf and rip currents” along southeastern US beaches over the next several days.

Swells generated by Hurricane Maria are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current condition.

The Category 3 storm is carrying maximum sustained winds of 115 mph and is 245 miles east of Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas. It is moving at 8 miles (13 kilometers) per hour.

“Maria will move away from the Bahamas into the open waters of the western Atlantic today,” the center said.

Hyde County released the following statement on Sunday:

Effective at 5:00 am Monday, September 25, 2017, the Hyde County Board of Commissioners have declared a state of emergency for all of Hyde County and a mandatory visitor evacuation of Ocracoke Island due to the threat of hurricane Maria. Direct impacts from the storm include tropical storm force winds and storm surge of 2-4 feet along the Outer Banks.

During a state of emergency, all NC DOT ferry reservations are canceled and tolls are waived. Boarding the ferries will be on a first come first serve basis. Due to the temporary fortification in place after Jose on Hwy 12, impacts may occur in advance of the storm, we recommend starting your evacuation as soon as possible and utilizing the sound route ferries when evacuating. Based on current forecast holds, wind speeds could cause the suspension of ferry services early Tuesday morning, potentially making Monday night the last runs available. Decisive action is necessary for Ocracoke visitors to insure you arrive at your destination safely.

All of Hyde County is currently under a tropical storm watch. Remember that impacts occur well beyond the cone of error and tropical storm force winds extend up to 230+ miles from the center of the storm. Please make sure you have multiple ways to receive weather alerts, as there is the potential for severe weather. In addition, everyone needs ensure that their household hurricane preparedness plans are in place. You should be able to sustain yourself and your family for up to 72 hours after a storm. Please start to secure all outdoor furniture and any other loose objects. Any updates regarding Hyde County can be found on our web page and social media outlets.

The Caribbean gets socked

The storm hit Dominica, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos, a British overseas territory.

It knocked out power in the US commonwealth of more than 3 million people, Puerto RIco Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said. And it could be months before the electricity returns.

At least 15 people are confirmed dead on Dominica, and dozens more remain missing. One person died in the US Virgin Islands, probably from drowning, authorities said. At least six people were killed in Puerto Rico, said Héctor M. Pesquera, the island’s public safety director.

US President Donald Trump has pledged federal help for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Dam weakening in Puerto Rico

On Friday afternoon, people in the northwest part of Puerto Rico were urged to evacuate because of a possible dam breach on the Guajataca River, the National Weather Service said on Twitter.

Rosseló told WAPA radio on Saturday that the Guajataca Dam is still holding, but he is still pleading for residents to evacuate the area.

He said the mandatory curfew remains in effect until further notice, but it will now be from 7 p.m. until 5 a.m.

The governor said the island has a 20-day supply of gasoline and diesel and will install “water oasis” stations around the island. Many roads are impassable and gas stations were destroyed, he said.

Puerto Ricans living without water, communication

As Maria makes its way north, residents of Puerto Rico are beginning to assess the full extent of the storm’s destruction.

Locals in the town of Maunabo, on the southeast coast of the island, could be seen lining up at a freshwater spring near the base of a mountain to fill jugs, tanks and barrels.

The spring is the only source of water in the municipality, and people wait for hours each day to get the water they need to refill toilets, take showers and wash clothes.

“Every house comes here and every day it’s busy from morning to night,” said Hector Labron, a resident of Maunabo. “There’s no water in town.”

Residents also have limited access to cell signal, causing panic among families at home and abroad who have been unable to contact their loved ones.

East of Maunabo, in Humacao, people stop their cars along the side of the road near a cell tower on a hill. It’s the only access to cellphone service for miles.

“We’re trying to communicate to our families in the US,” Jose Flores, who traveled 17 miles to reach the tower, told CNN. “I just got connected to my daughter in Florida, and she will let the rest of the family know I’m fine.”