Hanna takes aim at Bahamas, Ike next in line

NASSAU, Bahamas - September 4, 2008 - Hurricane Ike, a still-more-dangerous Category 4 storm, was advancing from the east.

Hanna was forecast to pass east of the Atlantic archipelago late Thursday before reaching the coast of North or South Carolina by Saturday, but the National Hurricane Center said Hanna's sprawling bands of outer winds are likely to hit the U.S. far sooner. Tropical storm force winds extended outward as far as 315 miles (510 kilometers) from the center.

Haitian authorities blamed Hanna for 61 deaths, most due to flooding..

Civil Protection Department spokesman Abel Nazaire said 21 of the deaths were in the northern city of Gonaives, which has been almost entirely cut off by floodwaters..

The storm also was blamed for two deaths in Puerto Rico..

Hanna's heart was about 75 miles (125 kilometers) east-southeast of Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas Thursday evening - and about 580 miles (940 kilometers) south-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina. It was moving toward the northwest near 14 mph (22 kph)..

Its maximum sustained winds were 65 mph (100 kph), but forecasters said it could become a hurricane before hitting the U.S..

A hurricane watch was issued for Edisto Beach, South Carolina, north to the Outer Banks of North Carolina near the Virginia border. Forecasters said Hanna could bring high winds and rain from South Carolina to Maine..

The governors of Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency and officials urged residents to head inland Thursday as Hanna approached. Some residents shuttered houses and stocked up on food and sandbags..

In South Carolina, Gov. Mark Sanford urged people to leave flood-prone areas and mobile homes in two northern counties by Friday afternoon..

In the Bahamas, Hanna snapped telephone lines in the eastern island of San Salvador as it brushed past, said Quincy Poitier, who answered the phone at the Riding Rock Inn Resort And Marina, but there were no reports of injuries..

"Most certainly I am relieved. We are tranquil," said Stephen Russell, interim director of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency..

But he was already worried about Ike and Tropical Storm Josephine behind it..

"As soon as we are clear with Hanna, we have to turn our eyes now on Ike, a powerful one coming ashore," Russell said..

By Thursday afternoon, Ike had maximum sustained winds near 135 mph (215 kph). It was centered 505 miles (815 kilometers) north-northeast of the Leeward Islands and forecasters said it could reach the Bahamas by late Sunday or Monday. It was moving toward the west-northwest at 14 mph (22 kph)..

Ike is the third major hurricane of the Atlantic season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. The other two were Bertha and Gustav, which was blamed for 112 deaths in the Caribbean, including 76 in Haiti..

Josephine followed behind, with maximum sustained winds near 45 mph (75 kph) and was moving toward the west-northwest near 10 mph (17 kph)..

"We've got three of them on the way. We've just got to be prepared," said Frank Augustine, a 47-year convenience store manager, as he bought 10 five-gallon water jugs under blue skies at a Nassau depot..

Only a few dozen of the Bahamas' roughly 700 islands are inhabited, but they are near sea level and have little natural protection. In the south, Hanna knocked out electricity in Mayaguana Island and forced the closure of some small airports including those in Long Island and Acklins Island..

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