Hanna heads for Carolinas

Posted September 5, 2008 5:26 a.m. EDT
Updated September 5, 2008 11:33 a.m. EDT

— The Carolinas are bracing for Tropical Storm Hanna, which is expected to bring high winds and rain along the Atlantic Coast from South Carolina to Maine.

Some Southeastern states, including North Carolina, declared emergencies Thursday, and officials urged residents to head inland.

About 40 North Carolina counties are under severe weather watches or warnings, and more than 10 closings and delays are reported.

North and South Carolina could see effects from the storm start as early as Friday night. Forecasters expected Hanna to strengthen slightly before making landfall early Saturday.

As of 8 a.m. Friday, the National Weather Service says the storm had maximum sustained winds at 65 mph, was centered about 425 miles south of Wilmington and was moving northwest at about 18 mph.

"The storm is moving fast now," said WRAL Meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner. "Twenty miles per hour – that is fast for a tropical storm."

State of emergency

Gov. Mike Easley declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard and water rescue teams, and he urged residents to prepare for possible hits from Tropical Storm Hanna and Hurricane Ike.

"It now appears Hanna will be a Category 1 hurricane when it hits the North Carolina coast Saturday morning," Easley said. "Since the exact path is uncertain, everyone who lives in the coastal counties needs to be ready."

The twin threats of Hanna and Ike prompted Easley to issue the state of emergency, he said.

"It lets me legally activate all the resources the state has, (and) it's the first step to asking the federal government for assistance," Easley said.

The governor placed 270 National Guard members, 12 of the state's Swift Water Rescue teams and 144 state troopers on standby for immediate deployment.

"We also, for this particular storm, have six Blackhawk helicopters available both before and after the winds subside," Maj. Gen. William E. Ingram Jr., adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard, said.

An emergency, bilingual hotline (1-888-835-9966 or TTY 1-877-877-1765) will begin 24-hour operations at 10 a.m. Friday. The hotline will provide weather updates, shelter locations, highway closings and, later, act as a referral service for those in need of help.

Forecasters could soon be getting less information about approaching storms, because some weather stations buoys have been removed or repositioned due to a lack of federal funding. Two buoys off Sunset Beach have been removed.

"It's the first information we get as the storm approaches," WRAL meteorologist Mike Maze said. "It's certainly disconcerting."

Hanna wasn't the only tropical weather system to watch.

Farther out to sea, Hurricane Ike was Category 3 strength, with winds up to 124 mph, as it spun westward across the Atlantic. It could arrive in the Bahamas on Sunday.

Tropical Storm Josephine was out there, too, spinning around with winds at about 50 mph, as of Friday morning.

Emergency plans laid across state

Counties across the state made emergency plans and considered evacuations, while others opened shelters.

New Hanover County officials asked residents to voluntarily evacuate the beaches, low-lying areas and mobile homes from 6 a.m. Friday.

Cape Lookout National Seashore superintendent Russell Wilson ordered visitors to leave uninhabited islands at the park north of Wilmington by 5 p.m.

Brunswick, Carteret and Onslow county officials said they would decide whether to call for evacuations after a conference call with state authorities Friday morning.

Three counties planned to open shelters on Friday:

  • Brunswick County: North Brunswick High School, 1395 Scorpion Drive, Leland; West Brunswick High School, 550 Whiteville Road, Shallotte; opening at 9 a.m.
  • New Hanover County: Eaton Elementary School, 6701 Gordon Road, Wilmington; Dorothy B. Johnson Elementary School, 1100 McRae St., Wilmington; and Noble Middle School, 6520 Market St. Wilmington (pets accepted); opening at noon.
  • Pender County: Malpass Corner Elementary School, 4992 Malpass Corner Road, Burgaw; Topsail Middle School, 17385 U.S. Highway 17, Hampstead; opening at 4 p.m.

Cape Fear Hospital and New Hanover Regional Medical Center have canceled all outpatient services scheduled after noon Friday. Outpatient clinics, Medical Mall and Coastal Family Medicine will close at that time. Normal hospital operations will resume Monday.

Tracking Hanna

Green dots on the map (below) represent counties that have announced emergency plans for Hanna. Blue dots show where WRAL news crews are throughout the state. The sun and clouds symbols show the locations of weather-data monitoring stations. Click those for updated local temperature, rainfall and wind statistics.



Due to the storm, WRAL-TV will broadcast news at 5 and 5:30 p.m. Friday.

The U.S. Open tennis tournament can be seen on WRAL NewsChannel, Time Warner cable ch. 252, starting at 5 p.m.