Authorities from Florida to Virginia braced today for Tropical Storm
Hanna, the leading blow in a potential one-two punch in the coming days
as a much more powerful system rampages across the Atlantic in its
Hanna, which forecasters say could become a Category 1 hurricane
tomorrow before reaching the U.S. southeastern coast, is currently
lashing the Bahamas with heavy rains and 65 mph sustained winds after
leaving more than 60 people dead in Haiti from flooding and mudslides.
In its latest forecast, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center
said the eye of the storm will be near the southeast U.S. coast by late
Friday, although rains and winds associated with Hanna will reach shore
well before then. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward from
Hanna's eye up to 315 miles, it said.
The center issued a hurricane watch for the area between Edisto
Beach, S.C., and Ocracoke Inlet, N.C. A tropical storm watch is in
effect from Edisto Beach south to Altamaha Sound, Ga.
If Hanna stays on its latest projected path, its center is expected
to make landfall just north of Wilmington, N.C., before 8 a.m.
Saturday, then skirt the Atlantic Coast over the next 24 hours or so.
In Virginia, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) declared a state of emergency
this morning and directed state agencies to take action to protect
Virginians from the effects of Hanna.
"Current forecasts predict Hanna will bring tropical storm force
winds to Virginia, causing coastal flooding and the very real
possibility of tornadoes and power outages," Kaine said in a statement.
"Virginians should listen to their local government representatives and
local news media for instructions for the duration of the storm."
In North Carolina, Gov. Mike Easley (D) announced he
is activating the state's National Guard and other personnel in
preparation for an emergency response. He said up to 270 National Guard
members would be in place by tomorrow and that 144 Highway Patrol
troopers are on standby for immediate deployment. In addition, 12 of
the state's 25 swift water rescue teams will be activated in the
central and eastern parts of North Carolina, and the rest have been put
on alert, he said.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R) returned early from the
Republican National Convention yesterday because of Hanna's approach,
canceling a speech he was scheduled to give there today. A spokesman
said he would make a decision on evacuations today as the storm moves
closer to the coast. Meanwhile, about 2,500 soldiers from the South
Carolina National Guard and 569 officers from the Public Safety
Department are on standby.
Authorities in Georgia and Florida said they expect to avoid a major
hit from Hanna but urged their citizens to remain vigilant. Florida
emergency management officials warned coastal residents of a high risk
of rip currents over the next several days and noted that
tropical-storm-force winds extend about 230 miles out from Hanna's
As they prepared for the storm, boat owners in the Carolinas secured
their vessels in marinas, and high schools canceled Friday night
football games. Humane societies looked for foster families to take in
dogs and cats in case they needed to be evacuated from animal shelters
along the coast.
But Hanna was not the only worry on the horizon. A much more
powerful storm, Hurricane Ike, is making its way across the Atlantic on
an uncertain path. Behind Ike is Josephine, a tropical storm that is
considered a less serious threat.
"You've got storms lined up like Rockettes out there," Brad Dean,
president of the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, told the Sun
Packing maximum sustained winds near 140 mph, "Ike is an extremely
dangerous Category 4 hurricane" on the Saffir-Simpson scale, the
National Hurricane Center said today. Although it could weaken to a
Category 3 storm over the next day or so, it is expected to remain a
powerful hurricane for the next several days.
"It is too early to determine what land areas might eventually be
affected by Ike, but interests in the southeastern Bahamas and the
Turks and Caicos Islands should monitor the progress of this system,"
the hurricane center said. Its latest forecast map shows the hurricane
reaching the Turks and Caicos by around 8 a.m. Sunday and tracking over
the Bahamas on Monday and Tuesday in the general direction of Florida's
Some computer models have also shown a possibility that Ike could
squeeze between Cuba and Florida and head into the Gulf of Mexico.
Hurricane Gustav entered the gulf last week before striking the
Louisiana coast Monday as a Category 2 storm.
Following Ike is Tropical Storm Josephine, which is now in the
eastern Atlantic. Some computer models suggest it could peter out
there, becoming what some forecasters call a "fish storm."