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VIRGINIA BEACH -- As Hurricane Irene moves closer to Virginia, emergency operations officials in Va. Beach don't want to take chances.

At 8:00 a.m. Friday, City Manager James K. Spore issued a declaration of local emergency as the Emergency Operations Center opened.

A mandatory evacuation of Sandbridge was effective Friday at 12:00 noon; voluntary evacuation of campgrounds and mobile homes was to start then as well.

The center will remain open through the storm.

The city urges residents and visitors to stay away until the storm has passed.

When the hurricane arrives, Sandbridge may be cut off from the mainland. Police, firefighters and paramedics may be delayed in responding.

Starting 8 a.m. Saturday, the access road into Sandbridge will be closely controlled to discourage people from entering the area.

Residents and visitors are strongly urged to depart Sandbridge by Saturday noon and to await the storm's passing. The neighborhood is subject to storm surge, large waves and hurricane-force winds.

People evacuating should stay with friends or relatives out of the low-lying areas or go to a city shelter. Evacuation should be completed by noon Saturday.

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