Ocean City activated phase three of its hurricane action plan and saw the evacuation of thousands of residents and visitors as officials made strict orders following Hurricane Irene's expected hit at the Maryland shore, while danger warnings were issued by Gov. Martin O'Malley of the monster storm.

Mayor Richard Meehan signed the state emergency declaration that gives orders to shut down the entire city after Friday 5 pm.

This is a very severe storm. The last time we evacuated Ocean City was Hurricane Gloria and the magnitude of this storm, on its present track, exceeds the magnitude of Hurricane Gloria. In the best interest of public safety we've made this decision, Meehan said, according to wtop.com.

A state emergency was declared by Gov. O'Malley on Thursday. He asked residents to face what he called a deadly, slow-moving hurricane that is bearing down on the state of Maryland, an ajc.com report stated.

The governor also said that Irene's epicenter is expected to arrive off the coast of Ocean City, with the eye wall possibly even over the beach community by 2 a.m. on Sunday, the report said.

Meehan said on Thursday that there were probably about 125,000 to 150,000 people in Ocean City, and the city has about 7,000 residents.

According to Emergency management officials, Irene is expected to hit Ocean City with a huge impact. Gale force winds are expected to start affecting the area about 6 p.m. Saturday, while the rainfall expected over the next three days is 9.5 inches. Before this emergency, Ocean City had ordered an evacuation in 1985 for Hurricane Gloria.

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