Hanna hits US coast as Ike looms

September 6, 2008 12:00 am

, MIAMI, September 6 – Tropical Storm Hanna hit the US states of South and North Carolina with full force early Saturday, prompting coastal residents to seek refuge inland and authorities to declare a state of emergency.

Meanwhile, the even more powerful Hurricane Ike threatened Caribbean islands and the United States.

Hanna, which has already left dozens dead in Haiti, triggered emergency operations along more than 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) of the North and South Carolina coastline.

The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said the storm made landfall along the border between South and North Carolinas at about 3:20 a.m. (0720 GMT), lashing the coast with gale force winds, a storm surge and heavy rains.

The governors of North Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford called for people to evacuate two counties.

As it hit dry land, the stormed packed sustained winds near 110 kilometers (70 miles) per hour, according to the NHC.

"Weakening is expected after landfall, and Hanna should become an extratropical storm by early Sunday," the center said in its latest advisory.

Several southern US states have endured Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricane Gustav in recent weeks and officials expressed concern that people along the coast were not taking Hanna seriously.

"The response is not what we would want it to be," Sam Hodge, emergency manager for Georgetown, South Carolina, told CBS News.

"We feel there should be more people evacuating."

Authorities also kept a wary eye on the more formidable Hurricane Ike out in the Atlantic.

Ike was forecast to spare Haiti while the Caribbean nation struggled to recover from devastating flooding from Hanna which killed 163 people. "At least for now" Haiti looks likely to be spared yet another hit, NHC spokeswoman Karina Castillo said.

The poorest country in the Americas is now reeling from the devastation inflicted by three storms in as many weeks that killed more than 280 people.

The country’s third largest city Gonaives remained under water following Hanna, and Senator Yuri Latortue who represents the city called the situation "catastrophic."

"I know perfectly well that the hurricane season has hit our entire country, but the situation in Gonaives is truly special, because now some 200,000 people there haven’t eaten in three days," Latortue said.

A lifeline was extended to thousands when a boat carrying World Food Program relief supplies docked at Gonaives port, the WFP said.

Haiti’s government pleaded for international aid, and the United Nations prepared an emergency appeal. Switzerland, France, the United States, the European Union and the Red Cross were among early aid givers.

Ike was on course to pummel the Bahamas Saturday and Sunday before possibly slamming into Cuba, another island nation recently battered by this hurricane season’s conga line of storms.

Ike is then forecast to make landfall in south Florida on Wednesday as a major hurricane, Castillo warned.

Densely populated south Florida, including the cities of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, has not been hit by a major hurricane since Hurricane Andrew in 1992 — the costliest natural disaster in US history until it was topped by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Ike was downgraded slightly Friday but remained a "major hurricane" as it churned over the western Atlantic, with sustained winds of 185 kilometers (115 miles) per hour — a category three on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale, the NHC said.

As of 0600 GMT Saturday, Ike was 530 kilometers (330 miles) northeast of Grand Turk Island and was moving southwest at about 26 kilometers (16 miles) per hour, the NHC said.

Ike and Hanna were part of a trio of storms in the Atlantic that includes Tropical Storm Josephine in the eastern Atlantic near Cape Verde.

They follow Hurricane Gustav which ripped through the Caribbean then slammed the US Gulf Coast, and Tropical Storm Fay which pounded several Caribbean islands and then dumped record amounts of rain in Florida.


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