Friday, September 5, 2008

Hanna Aims at U.S. East Coast as Hurricane Ike Looms Behind

By Demian McLean

Sept. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Tropical Storm Hanna threatened to batter the U.S. East Coast with heavy wind and driving rain this weekend as powerful Hurricane Ike charted a path from open sea toward the Caribbean.

Hanna, with winds of 65 miles (100 kilometers) per hour, was centered 110 miles east of Daytona Beach, Florida, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said on its Web site at 11 a.m. Miami time. The tempest is expected to make landfall in South Carolina early tomorrow and sweep through North Carolina and Virginia, then hug the Northeast coast as it heads for New England.

``People have battened down things that could get blown around,'' said Mark Kruea, spokesman for the City of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. ``It's a good tune-up to ward off complacency about other storms, including Ike, which has the potential to be really scary.''

Hanna devastated Haiti, which was recovering from strikes by Hurricane Gustav and Tropical Storm Fay in the past month. The latest storm killed at least 136 people there, Agence France-Presse reported.

Gonaives, Haiti's third-largest city, with a population of 300,000, is still mostly under water, AFP said. Almost 10,000 people have been evacuated to shelters, AFP said, citing the head of Haiti's civil protection office.

Hanna is forecast to come ashore near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, a coastal town of 23,000 people that is dotted with high-rise condominiums, hotels and vacation homes.

Staying Put

At least two hurricanes have grazed or directly hit Myrtle Beach area in the past decade, as well as several tropical storms.

``Hanna has failed to develop into what a lot of folks along the coast would consider a major threat,'' said Sid Gaulden, a spokesman for the South Carolina Emergency Management Division in West Columbia. ``Many people are making the decision not to evacuate their homes.''

Across the border, North Carolina's governor declared a state of emergency in preparation for Hanna and Hurricane Ike, which is forecast to hit the U.S. East Coast within a week.

``Residents here have a lot of experience with hurricanes,'' said Jill Lucas, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Crime Control and Public Safety in Raleigh. The agency was advising people to store three to five days' worth of food and water, and to stay off the roads during the storm.

Progress Energy Inc., a Raleigh, North Carolina-based utility, said it would send power-line and tree crews to coastal areas today.

Ike Weakens

Virginia declared a state of emergency yesterday. North Carolina Governor Mike Easley put 12 water-rescue crews, 270 members of the National Guard and 144 Highway Patrol troopers on standby to help.

Ike weakened overnight to a Category 3 hurricane, the middle of the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, with sustained winds of 120 mph, down from 135 mph in the past day.

The system was 425 miles north of the Leeward Islands and heading west at 16 mph. On that track, the center predicted Ike may cut through the Bahamas starting on Sept. 7 before slamming into the Florida Keys on Sept. 9.

Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator David Paulison compared Ike with Hurricane Andrew because like that storm, which devastated South Florida in 1992, it's compact and powerful.

``It could be very dangerous,'' he told reporters on a conference call yesterday. ``We're going to be watching it very closely.''

To the east of Ike, Tropical Storm Josephine weakened, with sustained winds at 45 mph. It was about 695 miles west of the southern Cape Verde Islands.

FEMA and American Red Cross officials said they will be able to respond effectively to Hanna, Ike and Josephine.

``We have enough supplies to meet these three storms,'' Eric Smith, a FEMA assistant administrator, said yesterday.

To contact the reporter on this story: Demian McLean in Washington at

Source: BBC - Bloomberg.Com

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