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Son to Stay, Dad Leaves as Irene Churns to North Carolina

For the past five years, Ray and Matthew Lamb have sold bloodworms and fishing poles at Chasin’ Tails Outdoors, their bait-and-tackle shop in Atlantic Beach, North Carolina. Today, as Hurricane Irene barrels down, father and son are parting ways.

“I’m not going to stay,” said the elder Lamb, 62, sweating through his gray T-shirt as he boarded the windows of Chasin’ Tails, just across Bogue Sound from his home in Morehead City. He’s splitting tomorrow as his son hunkers down with his wife and baby girl along the coast.

It’s decision time for more than 65 million Americans in Irene’s path, whether it’s securing their homes and fleeing or simply buying flashlight batteries in case electricity fails in New York high rises. Lamb, 32, is taking precautions by staying close to his home and business.

He’s already sealed the windows of his brick home on Hoop Pole Creek on Atlantic Beach. On one side is the ocean, on the other Bogue Sound, vulnerable to high winds and flooding that can knock out utilities.

“We would stay there, but I don’t have a hookup for a generator and we have a 1-year-old baby,” said Lamb, tracking Irene’s path on a television perched in a corner of Chasin’ Tails. “I don’t want to get trapped over here.”

Moving In

Instead, Lamb and his wife, Stacy, and daughter, Savannah, plan to stay in his in-laws’ home in nearby Cape Carteret, backed up by an emergency generator. He hopes to return to Atlantic Beach as early as Aug. 28 in the event his store, with four freezers, loses electricity. He’s got gasoline-powered generators ready to crank up.

Yesterday, Carteret County authorities told visitors to leave. They also posted an evacuation order for Bogue Banks, a barrier island with Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle and other beach towns, starting at 6 a.m. today.

At least 500,000 people are affected along the coast, Governor Bev Perdue said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program this morning. The state’s shelters are open, and the state Highway Patrol, National Guard and Red Cross are on the ground, she said.

“We’re as ready as you can be at this point in time,” Perdue said. “Today’s the hard day; we have to wait for the storm to hit.”

Saturday Storm

The hurricane is tracking to make landfall Saturday near Morehead City, and there will be 180 National Guard troops on in eastern North Carolina by noon today with 2,300 on standby, the governor said at a news conference yesterday in Raleigh.

“It’s time for all of us to take very seriously these warnings, heed the instructions and listen to evacuation orders and prepare,” Perdue said at the news conference.

Asked what she would say to residents who are choosing to remain, the governor said people have to make their own decisions and that she would not “try to second-guess people.”

Still, Perdue said she would leave, noting that “we can always rebuild, but we cannot replace lost lives.”

“I know it’s really hard for folks who have small businesses to leave, but everybody should take this very seriously,” she said.

Cecil Jordan, 50, a commercial photographer in Beaufort, North Carolina, had made up his mind: “Anything below a Category 4 storm, I’m staying,” he said. Leaning over the rail of the Bogue Inlet Pier on Emerald Isle, a Carteret County beach, he shot pictures of surfers riding greenish-gray waves.

More than 65 million people, or about one in five Americans, from North Carolina to Maine, are in the way of Irene, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

End to Fun

Homeowners are scrambling to secure coastal property, said Tim Sutton, who installs storm shutters in Carteret County.

“I’ve got five crews running flat out,” said Sutton, 53, adding that he’s received several dozen calls since mid-week from people owners wanting him to close shutters on their homes.

As the sun set yesterday at Nags Head, farther north on the Outer Banks, 6-year-old Will Fitch clung to the front porch of his family’s rental vacation home. His father loaded bikes, kayaks, plastic beach shovels, and a 12-pack of beer that had become a nine-pack into the car. His family, from Richmond, Virginia, was cutting their vacation short.

“I’m afraid we could be going from bad to worse,” said Will’s uncle Alan Fitch.

A few doors down the row of weathered, wooden beach homes, Tim Ivey and Randy Russell of Windsor, North Carolina, were nailing the final sheets of plywood over the windows at Ivey’s mother-in-law’s home. They were both anxious to get the job done and head back to their own homes less than 100 miles inland to begin preparations there.

“We just got flooded out last year by Tropical Storm Nicole,” said Russell, who owns Bunn’s Bar-B-Q restaurant in Windsor. “I have a lot of respect for these storms. I’m already losing sleep over this one.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Burritt in New York at cburritt@bloomberg.net; Mark Niquette in Columbus at mniquette@bloomberg.net; Ted Richardson in Nags Head at trichardson0@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Tannenbaum at mtannen@bloomberg.net

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