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As Hurricane Earl’s powerful winds barreled toward the Outer Banks, more than 35,000 people were ordered to evacuate parts of the N.C. Coast. Emergency officials ordered evacuations of communities in Ocracoke and Hatteras islands. Gov. Bev Perdue declared a state of emergency.

The hurricane’s wind gusts have ranged from 130 mph to 140 mph. The storm has shifted between category 3 and 4 status. Regardless of the category, officials and residents aren’t taking chances. Ferries were packed with fleeing vacationers and residents. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper leading away from the islands.

Earl was 630 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras at 5 p.m. Wednesday, moving northwest at 17 mph and expected to pass within 60 to 90 miles of the vulnerable Outer Banks on Friday morning. Based on Earl’s current projected path, the Census Bureau calculated that 1.8 million people in 22 counties in North Carolina and Virginia could face hurricane and tropical-storm conditions within the next 48 hours.