Hanna Drenches Carolinas, Focus Turns to Hurricane Ike

Tropical Storm Hanna blew ashore over tourist beaches on the North-South Carolina border early Saturday at the start of a projected dash up the Eastern Seaboard that could dump heavy rain from Virginia to New England.

The National Hurricane Center said Hanna's center came on land at about 3:20 a.m. The storm had winds near 70 mph, just short of hurricane strength, before it rolled onto shore but was expected to weaken after moving over land.

Emergency officials were already looking past Hanna to powerful Hurricane Ike, several hundred miles out in the Atlantic. Ike is much stronger than Hanna and could be approaching southern Florida by Monday as Hanna spins away from Canada over the North Atlantic.

Hanna started drenching the Carolina coast Friday, with streets in some spots flooding by late afternoon as the leading edges of the storm approached land, making people gathered on beaches shout to be heard.

By early Saturday, the wind howled as gusts neared 50 mph and rain came in blinding bursts in Myrtle Beach. The lights flickered on and off several times along some beachfront blocks and the wind was so strong that it made waves in hotel pools.

Emergency officials urged evacuations in only a few spots in the Carolinas and about 400 people went to shelters in both states. Forecasters had said there was only a small chance of Hanna becoming a hurricane, and most people simply planned to stay off the roads until the storm passed.

Hanna was expected to race up the Atlantic Coast, reaching New England by Sunday morning. Tropical storm watches or warnings ran from Georgia to Massachusetts, and included all of Chesapeake Bay, the Washington, D.C., area and Long Island.

A hurricane watch was in effect from near South Santee River, S.C., about 45 miles north of Charleston, to the Outer Banks of North Carolina near the Virginia line.

As many as 7 inches of rain were expected in the Carolinas, as well as central Virginia, Maryland and southeastern Pennsylvania. Some spots could see up to 10 inches, and forecasters warned of the potential for flash flooding in the northern mid-Atlantic states and southern New England.

For all the talk of Hanna, there was more about Ike, which could become the fiercest storm to strike South Florida since Andrew in 1992. That hurricane did more than $26 billion in damage and was blamed for 65 deaths from wind and flooding along with car crashes and other storm-related accidents.

FEMA officials said they were positioning supplies, search and rescue crews, communications equipment and medical teams in Florida and along the Gulf Coast--a task complicated by Ike's changing path. Tourists in the Keys were ordered to leave beginning Saturday morning.

Read more about horse owners' preparations for Tropical Storm Hanna.  

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The Associated Press


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