Ocracoke Island Ferry
Ocracoke Island Ferry is shown in this file photo, Sept. 1, 2010. Reuters

Ocracoke Island is being evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irene's arrival.

Tourists and residents of the small North Carolina island calmly flocked to ferries Wednesday. Hurricane Irene strengthened to a Category 3 storm while people on Ocracoke filled their cars with gas and gathered supplies.

“It’s a standard precaution,” North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue said. “We want folks to take this storm seriously and to get prepared.”

Irene is expected to follow a path that will drive it over the East Coast. It could hit Florida and Georgia by Thursday, moving north through the Carolinas over the weekend. Some project that the hurricane will reach New York City, Long Island and even Boston by early next week.

Last year, Ocracoke Island was evacuated due to Hurricane Earl. North Carolina's barrier islands experienced strong winds, heavy rains and minor flooding, but the storm was much less severe than expected.

We dodged the bullet, Perdue said after Earl.

Ocracoke Island is accessible only by boat and is a popular summer destination for tourists. The island has a permanent population of about 800 people, according to Forbes.

Despite the warning, some adventurous travelers arrived via ferry Wednesday morning, but told officials they were only going to the beach for a day before heading back to the mainland.

Hurricane Irene hit the island of Hispaniola Monday, with 100 mile per hour winds and severe rain battering the Dominican Republic, but so far missing Haiti.

On Wednesday, it blew over the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands, and there was flooding reported in Baracoa, Cuba. It's the first major storm of the season.