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Evacuations Start as Dennis Approaches Outer Banks

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From Associated Press

Hurricane Dennis wallowed along the coast toward the Carolinas on Sunday, prompting evacuation orders for the fragile Outer Banks barrier islands and giving conflicting signals on whether it would hit land.

The hurricane was less than 200 miles south of the North Carolina coast by late afternoon, with its top wind revved up slightly, to 105 mph, and it had edged slightly toward the east. A hurricane warning was posted for much of the coast of North Carolina.

Dennis was expected to continue turning toward the northeast, with a chance that the worst of it would miss land. But its track was far from certain, the National Hurricane Center said.

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“It weaves and bobs as it goes along,” said Jerry Jarrell, the center’s director. “It’s been holding its own, but I’ve noticed the eye is very large, it’s huge, and if that eye goes through one of those cycles where it contracts, it certainly could intensify, and that would bring it closer to the coast and even over the coast.”

He also cautioned that, because of the hurricane’s size, with high wind extending up to 175 miles from the center Sunday, “it doesn’t have to come across the coastline to cause pretty strong winds.”

Forecasters said wind approaching hurricane force could reach the Cape Fear area near North Carolina’s southernmost tip today.

Along North Carolina’s Outer Banks chain of barrier islands, evacuations started at 1 p.m. Sunday south of Oregon Inlet and at noon on Ocracoke Island.

Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. declared both a state of emergency and a state of disaster Sunday.

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