In Dare County, N.C., officials Wednesday ordered a mandatory evacuation of Hatteras Island. Hyde County Manager David Smitherman ordered an evacuation of Ocracoke Island, N.C., a barrier island accessible only by ferry. Police ordered visitors to leave Atlantic Beach, N.C., and strongly suggested residents leave, as well.
North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue urged stragglers to evacuate today.
"If you're on the Outer Banks ... you still have time to leave the Banks and you still have time to get to a safer place," she said.
Residents who decided to ride out the storm were today expressing their concerns about potential flooding, flying debris and loss of electricity.
"We're pretty scared," said Randy Jefferson. "We're doing what we can to make sure we're fine."
The surf was rough in Wrightsville, N.C., and tourists in the area were told to leave.
"It seemed like the waves were getting more aggressive and the riptide out was getting much stronger," said Mike Hoekema of Indiana.
In Atlantic Beach, N.C., Herb and Cindy Utter are not taking any chances.
"It was a 75 mph hour wind," Herb Utter said. "I thought the house was gonna blow down."
The couple moved furniture at their beach house indoors and prepared to head inland with memories of storms past fresh in their minds.
"Mother nature is powerful when she wants to be, and we can't beat it," Cindy Utter said. "So pay attention and take precautions."
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell also declared a state of emergency Wednesday in anticipation that Earl could shift and head for coastal communities as early as Thursday night.
"The current forecast has Hurricane Earl passing east of Virginia later this week. However, a change in the storm's path could bring hazardous weather conditions to eastern Virginia," McDonnell said in a prepared statement. "This declaration is a precautionary move which will allow state agencies to be ready just in case resources are needed."
The state's coastline already was under a hurricane watch.
The emergency designation authorizes various state agencies, from the Virginia National Guard to the Department of Emergency Management, to "position resources and manpower" ahead of the storm.
The U.S. naval fleet in Norfolk, Va., is remaining in port, but is under orders to be ready to get underway within 24 hours if necessary.
In Montauk, on New York's Long Island, residents fear damage to boats and beaches, and local officials are preparing for the worst of Earl's wrath.
"I know what's going to happen. This beach is gonna be gone," said Bill Wilkinson, East Hampton, N.Y., town supervisor.
In the huge Hurricane of 1938, the surge was enough to sever the tip of Long Island and left an estimated 700 dead.
In 1991, Hurricane Bob hit the Northeast and killed 18 people.
In New Jersey, locals already are battling the sea.
Lifeguards have been forced to save dozens of people.
To the north, on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, residents are snapping up batteries. On the island of Nantucket, Mass., it's a frantic battle to save homes.