The models now show Irene passing over Cape Hatteras. With hurricane force winds extending 50 miles from the eye, and with Hatteras being only 30-some miles east of Oriental, we could still feel Irene as a Major Hurricane. Thankfully, we will not be in the worst it, the northeast quadrant. If she will slip just a little further east each day, North Carolina will escape a direct hit. The storm is still huge with significant low pressure, but the worst winds should be off shore.
Irene is forecast to become a Cat 4 by tomorrow, an even more deadly storm. And it is easy to forget that wind strength is exponential. For example, a minimal Cat 4 with 135 mph winds increases the damage potential by a factor of 110 as compared with the damage from a minimal Cat 1 with 75 mph. Thus, even if the worst of the storm is off the coast, we could still experience serious damaging winds. NHC has not yet forecast the storm surge. Anything above eight feet could be problematic for us as the floating docks could rise above their pilings. I am sure you have seen photos of marinas where the boats are all piled at one end when the storm has passed.
But this is a good example of how imperfect our options are. We select the "solution" that we feel best about with full knowledge that no "solution", no decision is right per se. You simply must make a choice.
Several of our friends have decided to anchor in South River, a nice deep anchorage that offers some protection from wave action, has a good holding bottom and allows plenty of room to swing at anchor. It will be a scary and nerve-wracking day and night as the outer bands of the tropical force reach them in advance of the center of the hurricane. Our prayers are with them.