INTERVIEW: Thousands evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irene

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Hurricane Irene is churning through the Caribbean towards the U.S. Thousands on the East Coast are heading inland for safety, while others brace themselves for landfall.

Jay Gray is live in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, where a hurricane watch is already in effect. He's been there for the past couple days.

RYAN: Jay, we've already seen is pictures of people packing everything up and getting out of there. Is it your sense that most people don't want to take any risks?

JAY: Yeah, there's no question about that, Ryan. Good to talk to you. There's a mandatory evacuation right now for all visitors on these islands. Tomorrow, it will likely go to residents as well, and as you look out at the beach here, you can see a lot of people heeding that advice and moving to higher ground, the beach virtually empty right now. As I said, the residents will probably leave here sometime tomorrow. Today, they spent the day boarding up and buckling down anything that might be damaged by this massive storm, and most preparing to be without power and perhaps away from their homes for as long as a week or more, so they understand the intensity of Irene, they know this is a big storm, and they're very fearful it's going to strike here first, Ryan.

RYAN: It seems, though, the weather today is relatively calm. Is this the literal calm before the storm from your perspective?

JAY: Yeah, I think there's no question about that and what you see oftentimes, that's what you see, that it's very calm, very nice right before the storm, and then immediately after, as a matter of fact, a lot of people like to come out right after the storm, get a chance to survey the damage, but also see how calm the seas are. Of course, there's no telling what's going to happen with this storm. It is a major storm, and as it continues to track right now, it looks like the Carolinas, the Outer Banks, will be the first in the U.S. to experience it.

RYAN: This community is used to this kind of thing. Hurricanes have hit there a number of times. From your perspective, does it seem that the evacuation is orderly and everybody is getting out of there without too much of a headache?

JAY: I think it's fair to say, Ryan, for the most part, that is the case. There have been some lines on the roadways leading out of the Outer Banks, but for the most part, everything going very smoothly here. Emergency officials, though, wanting to make sure everybody understands exactly how serious the situation is. They now say there are less than 24 hours to get ready and get out.

RYAN: Jay Gray is going to ride out the storm there in Kill Devil Hills and I'm sure we'll see him quite a bit this weekend. We appreciate you're reporting and stay safe over the next couple days.

JAY: Will do.

RYAN: Thank you, Jay.

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