Wrightsville Beach, N.C. — Hanna is forecast to track through Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas later this week. Forecasters downgraded Hanna to tropical storm status Tuesday morning after its winds dropped to 70 mph.
"The projected path takes it to a Category 1 hurricane and then making landfall anywhere from the middle of Florida up to the southern North Carolina coast because it is going to be moving in such a shallow angle to the coast, a slight track could make a huge difference in where this thing makes landfall," WRAL Chief Meteorologist Greg Fishel said.
Hanna is already bringing swells, winds and strong rip currents to the North Carolina coast.
Michael Jerome Smith, 46, drowned at Fort Fisher on Sunday. State park officials said the dad was trying to rescue a child who been caught in a rip current when he got caught himself.
Lifeguards say strong currents already have them running ragged, with more than 40 rescues last weekend at Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach. Conditions were rough Monday, but only about 15 swimmers had to be rescued at the towns. No rescues were reported at Kure Beach.
"I could be wrong, but it doesn't seem to bad where we're staying right now. I think it's low tide right now,” beach-goer Brad Verburtt said.
However, looks can be deceiving.
"It's really, it's really rough though,” ocean rescue captain Jeremy Owens said.
Wrightsville Beach is one of the few beaches that staff lifeguards past Labor Day.
Even with trained rescuers on duty, Elaine Gardner's children aren't braving the waves. They witnessed a drowning at Carolina Beach earlier this summer.
"It was sad, we were really sad. It cast a shadow over that whole day, but I suppose it was good learning experience,” Gardner said. "It was such a huge wake up call, especially as far as the boys swimming together."
A wake up call to the power of the ocean.
"It's just unpredictable. You never know what it's going to do. You have to definitely respect it,” Gardner said.
Wrightsville Beach had 10 lifeguards stands manned Tuesday. Wednesday morning, the stands will be taken down so they won't get blown down if Hanna hits. Lifeguards will continue to patrol the beaches in four-wheelers and trucks.