NASSAU, Bahamas (CNN) - It's quieter than you might expect here in paradise as Hurricane Irene bears down on the Bahamas. The beaches are as beautiful as ever and the people just as friendly.
Except many of the beaches have yellow tape blocking them. "DO NOT ENTER," the tape reads, and nobody has. There are very few tourists left. Most departed on cruise ships that pulled out of port overnight or caught flights out before the airport closes Wednesday afternoon.
Those tourists who remain are hunkering down in large hotels built to withstand intense storms.
Without tourists there is no reason for the souvenir shops and restaurants to stay open. Most have metal hurricane shutters or plywood sheets covering the doors and windows.
Brian Nottage owns an ice cream parlor, dive shop and T-shirt store on Bay Street in downtown Nassau. He stayed open Wednesday morning hoping departing tourists may enjoy an ice cream cone on their way out of town but after a few hours he gave up and was putting up the shutters on his businesses.
"We've been through quite a few hurricanes, so we're pretty much prepared," he says. "Just basic shutters on all the windows and doors. (With) this particular building we have to be conscious of the flooding, so we tape up the whole of the door because you never know how high the water will get."
In typical island fashion, Nottage maintains a mellow demeanor. He's owned his businesses for 30 years and has seen many storms.
"I don't think we'll get more than 100, 105 mph winds at best. It's still pretty strong, but we've been through that quite a bit," he says, a little more casually than most people would with a hurricane heading their way.
Bahamians have few other options. New Providence Island is only about 20 miles long, so outrunning the storm is out of the question.
Before long the task is done and Nottage's shutters are all hung.
"It takes a matter of 10 minutes to do a window because we've done it so often," he says. "Mostly we put them up for near-misses, but this one looks like we're going to get it."