Gearing up for Hanna

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - September 6, 2008 - In Atlantic City, the surf was getting rough as concern continues about Hanna's winds, with gusts up to 60 miles per hour expected.

Down in Ocean City, firefighters at Engine 3 were getting three large storm trucks ready as Hanna moved closer.

"We have extra staff," said Capt. Brad Wilshire of the Ocean City Fire Department. "We are prepared to allow the police department to ride along with the trucks."

Residents, meanwhile, were busy stowing away anything that could be blown away.

"Batten down the hatches," said Ruth Ann Bosworth of Woodbury, New Jersey. "We want to make sure that, in the storm, we don't lose the awnings and preserve our plants."

All up and down the coast, work crews were bringing in anything that might float away. Life guard stands and rescue boats came in off the beach in Atlantic City.

Meanwhile in Strathmere, a steady stream of dump trucks headed to the North End beach where they were trying to fill enough of a buffer to protect beach front houses. Much of the beach was washed away during the Mothers Day N'oeaster. Beach erosion was also a major concern in Ocean City where Emergency Management officials were doing their best to warn residents of the hazards.

"We put a warning out about moving your cars in flood-prone areas to higher ground, a warning about swimming and dangers in the rip currents," said Frank Dinato of Ocean City Emergency Management.

A big concern for officials are tourists, who may not know what to do in such a storm like most locals do. That's why they're busy getting the word about about the risks Hanna will bring.

Tropical Storm Hanna sailed easily over the beaches of Carolinas' coast early Saturday, blowing hard and dumping rain but apparently causing little damage at the start of its speedy run north to New England.

Emergency officials were already looking past Hanna to powerful Hurricane Ike, several hundred miles out in the Atlantic. With Category 3 winds of near 115 mph, Ike could approach southern Florida by Monday, as Hanna spins away from Canada over the North Atlantic.

"Hanna is heading north in a hurry, leaving behind sunshine for the weekend," said Myrtle Beach city spokesman Mark Kruea.

He said city services would be open and that "despite a week of preliminary hype" the storm didn't have much of an impact on the city except a few downed trees and some power outages that were repaired in less than a half-hour.

Further to the north, officials in North Carolina reported more than 30,000 customers without power as Hanna moved inland through the eastern part of the state.

The wind started to kick in about 2:30 a.m., said Don Ogle, of Newport, night manager of a Morehead City motel along North Carolina's central coast. He said half of the motel's day crew stayed overnight.

"I don't know why. I'd go home if I could," he said.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said Hanna's center came on land about 3:20 a.m. near the state line with top sustained winds dropping to about 60 mph from near 70 mph while the storm was over water.

"All I've heard is wind, wind and more wind," said 19-year-old Dylan Oslzewski, who was working an overnight shift at a convenience store in Shallotte, N.C., about 15 miles north of the state line with South Carolina. Oslzewski said he had only had four customers compared to 30 or 40 on a typical weekend night.

Hanna started drenching the Carolina coast Friday, with some street flooding by late afternoon. People on the beach had to shout to be heard.

By early Saturday, the wind howled with gusts near 50 mph and rain came in blinding bursts in Myrtle Beach. The lights flickered several times along some beachfront blocks and the wind was so strong that it made waves in hotel pools. Several roads flooded at the peak of the storm, including U.S. 17 in Georgetown, which was shut down for several hours.

But nearly all the flooding was gone before daybreak, said Georgetown County Emergency Management Division spokesman Greg Troutman.

"We lucked out. There's not much out there to report," Troutman said after daybreak Saturday. "But it was good to dust off the ol' emergency plan."

The storm was causing some travel headaches. Raleigh-Durham International Airport canceled a few dozen flights Saturday morning. No problems were reported at Charlotte-Douglas International and Piedmont Triad International in Greensboro.

Also, Amtrak idled 10 trains, including the Silver Meteor between New York and Miami, and the Auto Train between Lorton, Va., and Sanford, Fla.

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 damage and was blamed for 65 deaths.

For Hanna, emergency officials urged evacuations in only a few spots in the Carolinas and about 400 people went to shelters. 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 racing up the Atlantic coast, set to leave North Carolina by midday Saturday and reach New England by Sunday morning. Tropical storm watches or warnings were issued from the Carolinas to Massachusetts, and included all of Chesapeake Bay, the Washington, D.C., area and Long Island. But a hurricane watch along the Carolinas' coasts was dropped.

The storm has been blamed for disastrous flooding and more than 100 deaths in Haiti.

As many as 6 inches of rain were expected in the Carolinas, central Virginia, Maryland and southeastern Pennsylvania. Some spots could get up to 10 inches, and forecasters warned of the potential for flash flooding in the northern mid-Atlantic states and southern New England.

Organizers of the U.S. Open in New York said they may have to reschedule some of the tennis matches after seeing forecasts calling for about 12 hours of rain and wind up to 35 mph.

In preparation for Ike, the Federal Emergency Management Agency was positioning supplies, search and rescue crews, communications equipment and medical teams in Florida and along the Gulf Coast - a task complicated by the hurricane's changing path. Tourists in the Keys were ordered to leave beginning Saturday morning.

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