WILMINGTON, the United States, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- September is usually one of the best months to visit Wilmington, a seaside city with pearly white beaches and colorful beach houses.
But after weather forecasters put the resort town on the direct path of Hurricane Florence, predicted to be one of the deadliest in decades to hit the region, the town has been deserted by its visitors and residents.
In large billboards and moving LCD notice boards, the local government is cautioning locals to take the hurricane seriously and that mandatory evacuation orders are in place for the low-lying coastal regions.
Fire engines are also roaming the roads sending warnings through loudspeakers, prompting residents to leave.
On Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, just south of Wilmington beside the water, only a handful of people can be seen, soaking up the last rays of sunshine as dark clouds emerge on the horizon.
Marzena Krawiec, a physician and a mother of twin boys, was one of the last beachgoers before authorities closed down access to the beaches Wednesday evening.
"My family is planning to leave tomorrow morning at eight o'clock," she told Xinhua while her three dogs were chasing seabirds. "I have patients to tend to so I can't leave any earlier."
According to the forecast, Florence, now weakened to a category 2 hurricane, will make landfall sometime late Thursday or early Friday, making Thursday the last day for visitors and residents to flee from the high winds.
"One of my sons, Mikey, has autism, he has to have his cellphone and Wifi, so we can't afford to experience any power shortages," Krawiec said, adding that the family's plan is to head up north to Williamsburg, Virginia, where she hopes to transform the evacuation into an educational trip for her sons.
Krawiec said she was happy to see most gas stations in town selling gasoline again, as a shortage had plagued the city earlier this week.
"I spent five hours looking for gas Tuesday," Krawiec said, expecting a smooth northbound trip with minimal traffic.
For two beachgoers who gave their names as Jennifer and her daughter Jane, the plan is to ride out the storm in their Wilmington home.
"We've got food, water, and generators ready to go," Jennifer said.
The two did not seem particularly worried about the power of Florence, but were optimistic that the state's past fortunes of avoiding major hurricane devastation will prevail again this year.
For those who opt to stay around but fear staying at home, over 50 shelters have opened in North Carolina, according to the state's governor Roy Cooper.
Most businesses along the coast are taking the government's evacuation orders seriously. A drive around town shows that more than half of the gas stations, most supermarkets, and all restaurants have been boarded up, with sandbags piled in front of doors to prevent water from seeping in.
The gas stations which are still open, while sufficiently stocked, say they plan to close by Thursday afternoon.
Similar scenes can be seen across the coastlines of South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia, which are all preparing for inches of rainfall and storm surges. The strong winds and water may fell trees and damage buildings, and in the worst hit areas weeks of power outages are expected.