Image: Lee Taylor
Chuck Burton  /  AP
Lee Taylor of Harlow, N.C., buys ice for his family to ride out the storm as Hurricane Earl heads toward the eastern coast Thursday in Atlantic Beach, N.C.
updated 9/3/2010 9:09:43 AM ET 2010-09-03T13:09:43

A two-story Comfort Inn has become a makeshift hurricane hostel on North Carolina's Outer Banks for those who want to stay close to their homes but know they need better shelter from the outslaught of Earl.

Billy Parker, 55, chose to stay so he could keep an eye on his treasured property, but wasn't taking any chances with his family. He sent his wife, mother-in-law and two daughters to Elizabeth City — two and a half hours away on the mainland.

"I don't want them here," Parker said. "I'd fear for their lives."

Most of the hotel guests said they would rather get trapped on Hatteras Island than off it and prepared themselves for weeks without contact with the outside world. Storm overwash frequently destroys parts of Highway 12 — the only roadway connecting this exposed frontier to the mainland.

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Donna Lopez, 38, didn't think it would be worth the effort to move three kids and three dogs to another spot hours away when so many others had safely navigated storms here.

Video: Will Earl leave your weekend plans awash? (on this page)

Her children — ages 3, 5 and 10 — played around the parking lot Thursday evening as the storm gathered off the coast. Their stilted home nearby was boarded up for protection, but Lopez didn't want to take any chances at the house and didn't want to make the long drive away from the barrier islands when home could be accessible early Friday.

"With the kids, it's just safer to be over here," she said.

They had a room packed with lunchables, drinks and video games.

As the storm approached, about a dozen hotel guests mingled outside sharing drinks and cigarettes, even as the first bands of swift wind and strong rain whipped through the parking lot. A few others used laptops inside behind plywood-covered windows ready for an uncomfortable night of storm-watching.

Some of the hotel's windows were covered in plywood and cars filled the slightly elevated parking lot in hopes of avoiding any flooding, but it might not be enough.

When Hurricane Emily similarly brushed the Outer Banks as a Category 3 back in 1993, it brought so much surge into Buxton that first-floor rooms at the Comfort Inn were damaged under 2 feet of water.

"As long as it doesn't get over the top of the bed, I'm OK," said Tony Willis Jr., 33, a resident of nearby Frisco who sought shelter at the hotel with his family.

Interactive: Hurricane Tracker (on this page)

They all gathered Thursday at a local two-story hotel, hunkering down in a makeshift hurricane hostel that they perceived to be the safest shelter from swirling Hurricane Earl.

Flooding also wasn't the priority concern for Parker, who was staying on the first floor. He simply didn't want to venture too far from his doublewide trailer in Buxton, saying he wants to be able to quickly access it after the storm moves past Friday. Sipping on a beer as he watched the skies, Parker said he was worried about the damage of the storm's wind and water — and the fate of his life's belongings.

"That's my life. I've worked 30 years for it," he said.

Video: Riders on the storm (on this page)

For Nadya Bozhkova, 20, a student visiting for the summer from Volgograd, Russia, there were few options for evacuation.

Bozhkova doesn't have a car or a driver's license that would let her flee. She was worried about staying at the small motel that she's called home for the last couple months, so she packed all of her belongings into the Comfort Inn.

"I have no choice," she said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Will Earl leave your weekend plans awash?

  1. Closed captioning of: Will Earl leave your weekend plans awash?

    >>> director of the national hurricane center , bill read . good morning.

    >> good morning. how are you?

    >> i'm doing well. the question is, how busy are you? is it time to breathe a sigh of relief, sir?

    >> not really, but it is looking a little bit clearer as to what the trend will be. i've got the longer trend of the satellite. you can definitely see that it was a well-structured eye and circular wind field. if it skewed more to the east, if that trend continues, the worst of the winds will stay off to the east. again on the forecast track, i want to show that we're still too close to call. this forecast is almost right down the line on verifying. that brings it awfully close to the islands of nantucket, martha's vineyard and cape cod to completely rule out some serious impacts from maybe hurricane force winds later today, tonight and early tomorrow morning .

    >> okay. so, you were saying hurricane force winds. do we know how strong those winds might be for nantucket and cape cod , how dangerous they might be?

    >> well, at the present time , i would think we would be right on the cusp of a category 1. so, in the 75 to 85 miles an hour, perhaps some higher gusts, if there's some pretty good squalls with that.

    >> i'm trying to remember the last time the northeast was threatened by a serious hurricane, and i can't remember when. why is something that's so rare happening this year, sir?

    >> well, we may think they're rare, but they do commonly occur and this is a fairly similar scenario, of one bending around the coast. it was just 1991 , which i guess for the younger people was a long time ago. hurricane bob took a very similar track from off cape hatteras and came across with 100-mile-an-hour winds right through cape cod . before that, gloria in '85. so, yes, you go through periods. i was in houston and we had gone 23 years without a hurricane and we're thought of as a much more frequent visitor from hurricanes.

    >> bill read , thank you. one of the factors is also that the water is a little warmer, a couple degrees warmer this year, helping earl maintain its strength. thank you so much this morning.

Interactive: Hurricane Tracker

See hurricane data and paths of storms from last season.


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