The menace of Hurricane Earl comes at a bad time for any of the vacation-starved Americans who are heading to parts of the East Coast this Labor Day weekend.
Visions of a worry-free last holiday break of the summer have given way to concerns about powerful winds and relentless rain, at least through Friday.
"It's terrible timing for Labor Day," said CNN meteorologist Angela Fritz. "It's not going to be nice vacation weather anywhere from South Carolina up through Maine."
Hurricane Earl will make its closest pass to the Outer Banks of North Carolina around sunrise on Friday morning and will come close to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and the outlying islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard Friday evening, forecasters said.
Rip currents and dangerous surf will threaten beach- goers all along the East Coast.
Not exactly the perfect formula for the start of a vacation.
Hurricane warnings are already in place over a large portion of the North Carolina coast and mandatory evacuation orders are in effect for some of the barrier islands.
Tourists in the Outer Banks, a popular Labor Day destination, were nervous about the approaching storm.
"We might not be here the whole week," Scott Schmidt, who came with his family from New York, told CNN affiliate WRAL. "The kids are dying. We're here on vacation. They can't even go in the water."
"I'm a chicken. I really am," said Sandra Haduck, who goes on an Outer Banks fishing trip every year, according to the station. "If things start to get really bad, I'd leave."
Visitors who have booked a hotel in the region in the coming days and have questions or concerns should contact the property directly for the most up-to-date information, advised Lee Nettles, managing director of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.
It was too soon to estimate hurricane-related vacancies, he added.
There hasn't been "a flood" of cancellations so far, said Janice Farr, senior vice president of Sun Realty, which manages more than 1,200 vacation homes in the region. She expects 70 percent occupancy, which is typical of the weekend. Most Labor Day guests will check in on Saturday, after the storm passes, Farr added.
"I fully expect that it's going to be a beautiful weekend for Labor Day weekend coming up, so I don't think the incoming guests are going to be inconvenienced terribly much," Farr said.
Nettles also has a positive outlook for the holiday.
"I'm ever the optimist. I think we'll come through it," he said.
"It's a fast-moving storm and the forecasts are good afterward, so it's not like it will be sitting on us for any length of time. We're pretty resilient folks on the Outer Banks, so I'm optimistic that we'll bounce back quickly and still have a good weekend."
As the hurricane moves north later Friday, a direct hit on Cape Cod is not expected, but there is the potential for hurricane-force winds, high surf, power outages and heavy rain over the area.
Still, tourism officials in the region said few visitors concerned about the storm have called so far. They also didn't foresee a large number of cancellations.
"People come here to do more than swim," said Michele Pecoraro, vice president of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce.
"Chances are we'll have some rain on Friday and a beautiful weekend. Even if the storm is whipping up the ocean you can still visit, you can ... go to shops, visit the town centers."
But residents and tourists in the region were urged to create a plan to evacuate if necessary, said FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, according to the Cape Cod Times.
Not the type of Labor Day weekend activity most travelers imagined when they booked their relaxing vacation.
-- CNN's Marnie Hunter contributed to this report.
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