Published: Aug 24, 2011 11:13 AM EDT
Updated: Jun 27, 2012 9:38 PM EDT

HATTERAS, N.C. (AP) - Tourists on a small North Carolina island have begun evacuating as Hurricane Irene heads for the East Coast and it's the first test of whether people will heed orders to get out of the way of what could be a monstrous storm.
 
It won't be an easy task to get thousands of people off Ocracoke Island, which is accessible only by boat. Ocracoke is home to about 800 year-round residents and thousands of vacationers each summer. Tourists started evacuating Wednesday at 5 a.m. The island's residents have been told to evacuate Thursday.
 
The first ferry to leave the island early Wednesday had around a dozen cars on it.