Officials have ordered thousands of Maryland residents and visitors to leave Ocean City with Hurricane Irene fast approaching.

Gov. Martin O’Malley declared a state of emergency Thursday and urged residents to prepare. People are advised to keep flashlights with fresh batteries at home and to avoid candles, especially around children or pets.

The eye of the storm is expected to pass off Ocean City around 2 a.m. on Sunday.

Craig Evanego of the National Weather Service at State College, Pa., said Irene was expected to continue moving northwest for the next 12 to 24 hours before heading north to northeast, following the coastline. Evanego added that he expects York County to get 1 to 3 inches of rain with winds at 30 to 40 mph.

Mayor Rick Meehan said 125,000 to 150,000 people were in Ocean Thursday. The beach resort has around 7,000 year-round residents.