Nightly News   |  August 25, 2011

Thousands flee ahead of Irene

During high tourist season, 150,000 visitors and 30,000 residents have been ordered off the North Carolina Outer Banks, as Hurricane Irene is projected to hit North Carolina on Saturday afternoon. NBC’s Mark Potter reports from Nags Head, N.C.

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>> all the forecasts and computer models show the next stop for hurricane irene , the north carolina coast. nbc's mark potter in nags head tonight. mark, good evening.

>> reporter: good evening to you, brian. as you can see, there are very few people out here on the beaches today and that's because more people here started taking this storm seriously. many are borarding up and are now leaving for higher ground. with the storm bearing down, the tourists are heading out. during high tourist season , 150,000 visitors have been ordered off the north carolina outer banks , checking out of hotels and packing their cars for an early trip home.

>> just feeling the need to be safe and never underestimating a hurricane or the damage.

>> reporter: emergency managers say hurricane irene seen here from space will bring destructive winds and flooding, tearing up roads. among those leaving was melissa cook from philadelphia, clutching her wedding dress . she and her fiance had planned to get married sad at the nags head pier overlooking the ocean, but irene dashed their plans.

>> it's been so much time and so much work.

>> reporter: some 30,000 residents are also being ordered to evacuate tomorrow. 88-year-old stacy man is boarding up his house.

>> the winds's blowing like it's blowing.

>> reporter: richard peterson worries about the powerful ocean storm surge .

>> best case is five feet of water and it goes away, worst case is any house is gone.

>> everyone leaves. so there is no income at that point.

>> reporter: the only residents not expected to leave are more than 100 wild horses on north carolina barrier oilds thislands that have survived lots of storms from the past. the bride and groom from philadelphia say they'll now get married at a church with a good strong roof to protect them. some locals say they will not be leaving the outer banks and will ride out the hurricane here. but emergency managers say if they do that and they get in trouble, no one will be able to go out and help them.

>> nags head , north carolina , mark, thanks.