Weather conditions in Ocean City are deteriorating rapidly as Hurricane Irene hits North Carolina and moves up the coast. But these conditions are just the beginning of what could be the most powerful storm to ever hit the resort.
Ocean City is all but empty, the traffic lights are blinking yellow and a few inches of water have already accumulated on Coastal Highway from the driving rains that started early this morning.
But town officials say more than 300 people chose to stay behind and ride out the storm, even though the town's emergency services will cease when winds hit 50 miles per hour, and the towns wastewater plant will be shut down at 6 p.m. Saturday, when the brunt of Irene begins.
Gale force winds have begun to whip through the region and those winds are going to intensify to more than 100 miles per hour by late this evening and into the dead of night when the storm will be at its worst.
Mayor Rick Meehan says downtown Ocean City will likely be under several feet of water by the time the storm passes, pointing to the massive storm surge, and the 10 inches of rain that will saturate and already soaked coastline.
Mayor Meehan says residents should be patient, as the town will not allow anyone back into town until the damage can be properly assessed.