As Hurricane Irene moves closer to Maryland, Annapolis MayorJoshua J. Cohen declared a State of Emergency within the city limits, effective 10 a.m. Friday, urging residents in low-lying areas to evacuate by Saturday afternoon.

Worcester County also ordered a mandatory evacuation by 9 a.m. Saturday in the following areas: West Ocean City Sanitary Service Area (east of Herring Creek and north of Old Bridge Road); all properties east of Route 611 (Stephen Decatur Highway); and all properties in South Point (both sides of South Point Road). This includes Cape Isle of Wight, West Ocean City, Mystic Harbour, Snug Harbor, Assateague Point, Frontier Town Camp Ground, Castaways and others. County Commissioners also strongly recommended evacuation of all waterfront properties throughout Worcester County and all occupants of mobile homes.

Storm force winds were expected to begin affecting the state's coast earlier in the day on Saturday; isolated thunderstorms were in the forecast for the Baltimore area on Friday.

The hurricane, which had weakened slightly to Category 2 by Friday morning. Baltimore remains under a Tropical Storm Warning, with winds forecast to reach 31 to 36 mph Saturday night, increasing to 36 to 46 mph, with gusts to 60 mph. Delmarva beach resorts are under a Hurricane Warning, and expecting sustained winds of 70 to 90 mph, with gusts to 105 mph by Saturday night.

The city and other Western Shore communities might see a modest storm surge of just 1 to 3 feet overnight into Sunday, compared with the 8 to 9 feet during Tropical Storm Isabel, forecast officials said.

Annapolis High School will open as a pet-friendly shelter at 4 p.m. Saturday. The mayor has also ordered all four city garages to allow any residents who want to evacuate to park for free. Anyone needing assistance with transportation to the shelter should call 410-260-2211 after 3 p.m. Saturday.

As part of the State of Emergency, the mayor activated the hurricane call center. Anyone requesting information or needing non-emergency assistance related to the hurricane can call 410-260-2211 24 hours a day through the duration of this event.

With more than 400 miles of waterfront and many peninsulas,Anne Arundel County has floodprone areas whose residents are being warned to take precautions this weekend. That holds especially true for South County - the area from Annapolis south, which has long-established picturesque communities along rivers and the Chesapeake Bay.

"If they were flooded in Isabel – heads up – you probably will be likely to flood again," said Tracie Reynolds, an Anne Arundel County spokeswoman.

Worcester County shelters will open at 5 p.m. Friday. These shelters include Stephen Decatur High School, Stephen Decatur Middle School (SDMS), Snow Hill High School and Pocomoke High School (PHS).

Pet friendly shelters include SDMS, PHS and Worcester County Animal Control. Domestic animals, dogs, cats and ferrets, may be housed at these locations. Those seeking shelter for their pets at either SDMS or PHS must remain at the facility where their animal is housed. The following items are needed to house pets at any of the pet-friendly shelters: carriers, food and water, which are mandatory for all pets; proof of vaccination, pet litter, litter pans and medications as needed.

Baltimore officials are urging Fells Point residents who live in low-lying areas to relocate their vehicles. Citizens may park their vehicles at the following garages and lots starting at 8 a.m. Saturday: Caroline Street Garage, 805 S. Caroline St.; Fleet and Eden Street Garage, 501 Eden St.; Edison Parking Lots at Fallsway and High streets. Residents in flood-prone areas in South Baltimore, Cherry Hill, Westport, may move their vehicles to Lot O of the stadium lots. Vehicles need to be removed from these locations no later than 7 a.m. Monday.

On Thursday Ocean City officials ordered residents and visitors to evacuate the oceanfront community for the first time in more than two decades.

Gov.Martin O'Malley declared a state of emergency as the storm threatened significant flooding and widespread power outages when it arrives in Maryland sometime Saturday night.

"This is not a storm to be taken lightly," O'Malley said. "People who live in coastal areas should take every precaution," he said. The state of emergency designation activates the state National Guard.

Ocean City residents and visitors have been cooperating with the local state of emergency order issued by Mayor Rick Meehan, requiring everyone but emergency personnel to leave the city by 5 p.m. Friday, a city spokeswoman said.

"It seems to be going pretty orderly," the spokeswoman, Donna Abbott, said Friday morning. "People are boarding up and leaving. The message is getting out and I think people are heeding it."

Weather forecasters placed the Maryland and Delaware coasts and the lower Chesapeake Bay under a Hurricane Watch. That means hurricane conditions are possible within 48 hours. Baltimore, the Western Shore from Cecil County south, and the rest of the Chesapeake Bay were all under a Tropical Storm Warning.

The National Hurricane Center said Irene's projected path had crept farther to the west during the day

Instead of passing Delmarva at some distance offshore, as had been hoped, Irene's core winds are more likely to pass right over the mid-Atlantic beaches or just inland.