Stephanie Banfield, formerly of Bettendorf, is trying to decide whether she will stay or leave her home right by the beach in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

“I’m outside and it’s super-windy and hard to hear,” she said via personal messenger at 4 p.m. Monday.

As Hurricane Florence continues to threaten the Carolinas and Virginia, officials began to issue mandatory evacuations.

Banfield said the storm is not expected to hit until sometime Wednesday or Thursday.

Banfield, who grew up in Bettendorf, worked at the Quad-City Times from 2009-2013, then moved to Raleigh. 

She works remotely so she can live at the beach, and has lived ocean-side in Kitty Hawk for about two years. “I stayed for several tropical storms and hurricanes in 2016 and 2017 but never evacuated," she said.

This storm, she said, “is forecast to be one of the worst we’ve seen in a long time so the evacuation order they issued (Monday) is mandatory.”

“Originally I had planned to evacuate to Raleigh, where I have friends I can stay with,” she said. “But the inland flooding from rainfall with this hurricane is supposed to be just as bad there if not worse, so I might just stay out depending on the hurricane’s path and where it’s going to actually make landfall.

“We first started to see some rough surf and significant swell yesterday, but both (Sunday and Monday) have been gorgeous, sunny beach days,” she said. “The red no-swimming flags were put up yesterday to keep people out of the ocean because of the rough surf and risk of strong rip currents. But so far you’d never really know a storm of that magnitude is on the way because it’s been absolutely gorgeous.”

Although visitors have to leave and residents are supposed to, “they can’t force you to go,” Banfield said. “A lot of people stay to protect their property and because it’s challenging to evacuate with pets especially.

“I have a dog and a cat and finding hotels you can take your pets to in a hurricane evacuation is tough,” she said. “And with so much of the state being under a warning or forecast to have flooding, there aren’t many options.”