Residents in Ocean City, Md. Were ordered to evacuate as the monster storm Hurricane Irene is expected to hit the Maryland shore.
Governor Martin O'Malley declared a state of emergency Thursday, citing a need to take protective actions to protect the lives and property of impacted citizens.
As Irene steadily approaches the U.S. East Coast, all people except identified emergency personnel were ordered to evacuate Ocean City.
The entire city will be shut down after Friday 5 pm.
Irene, according to Mayor Richard Meehan, 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 125,000 to 150,000 people were in Ocean City Thursday. The beach resort has around 7,000 year-round residents, who need to seek shelter elsewhere.
Visitors are asked to return to their principle residences. Ocean City residents are asked to seek shelter elsewhere, according to city officials.
Businesses were requested to close by Thursday midnight. From then on, all incoming traffic to Ocean City will be limited to emergency personnel only, and no vehicles except by approved authority may enter the island.
About 9.5 inches of rain are expected to fall in Ocean City over the next three days - with storm surges of six feet above normal in low-lying areas, resulting in massive flooding.
The eye of the storm is expected to pass off Ocean City around 2 a.m. on Sunday.
Donna Abbott, communications manager for Ocean City, told The Baltimore Sun that emptying the city of a mass of visitors during the peak of beach season posed a thorny logistical problem.
We're still in summer mode here, Abbott said. Because of school, it was starting to go on the downswing, but we still have a significant amount of visitors in town.
We have a lot of people to move in a short amount of time, Abott added.
Officials have also imposed a ban on the sale of alcohol, effective at midnight, which they hope will sway stubborn visitors who are determined to keep their vacations going.
Hurricane Irene's Expected Path (Updated on Friday 8 a.m.)
Other major cities, such as Baltimore, didn't evacuate but did encourage residents to make preparations for the incoming storm. Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake urged building owners in at-risk coastal flood areas, including the Inner Harbor and Fell's Point, to begin to prepare for the massive storm.
On Friday, Hurricane Irene downgraded to a Category 2 storm. Despite the downgrade, the storm could still have a major impact on Maryland as early as Saturday. One reason is despite the loss of wind strength, the storm actually expanded in width in its track towards the Northeast.
The National Hurricane Center expanded its hurricane warning -- meaning a hurricane is expected within 48 hours -- to include portions of the Chesapeake Bay. It also expanded its tropical storm watch to include Baltimore and portions of Western Maryland.