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Gulf Coast Hit by Tropical Storm Hanna

September 15, 2002|From Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Tropical Storm Hanna blew ashore Saturday on the Gulf Coast, pouring up to 4 inches of rain across coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle and knocking out power with wind up to 50 mph.

The storm quickly weakened as it spread inland into Georgia and was downgraded to a tropical depression, with sustained wind down to 30 mph by late afternoon.

Alabama Gov. Donald Siegelman declared a state of emergency for Mobile and Baldwin counties. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had declared a state of emergency in all counties west of the Apalachicola River in the Panhandle.

The storm's center crossed the western end of Dauphin Island, south of Mobile, during the morning, then hit the coast near the Alabama-Mississippi line, said National Weather Service meteorologist Randy McKee in Mobile.

Power was out on Dauphin Island, some roads were underwater and the causeway and bridge leading to the island were closed.

"We've got a good many people who stayed on the west end of the island and we had to evacuate some people from the west end," Dauphin Island police officer G.T. Taylor said. He said no injuries or major damage were reported.

Tropical storm warnings were discontinued, but flood watches remained in effect for southeastern Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, southwestern and south-central Georgia and parts of South Carolina, the weather service said.

Hanna brought much needed rain to parched areas of southeastern and south-central Alabama, but some of the storm's heaviest rainfall was reported in the Florida Panhandle. Tallahassee had road flooding, and fallen tree limbs and power outages were reported in the Pensacola area.

At one point, 20,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Panhandle, Gulf Power Co. reported.

Bridges linking the mainland to Perdido Key, west of Pensacola, and Santa Rosa Island, south of the city, were temporarily closed because of high wind, said Escambia County Emergency Management chief Michael Hardin.

By 4 p.m. CDT, Hanna was centered about 40 miles northeast of Mobile, Ala., and was moving toward the northeast at about 12 mph. It was expected to continue that course today and continue weakening, the National Hurricane Center said.

Farmers, meanwhile, were hoping for rain.

"We need the rain desperately," said William Birdsong, regional extension agronomist in southeast Alabama, where rainfall has been below normal for several years.

"We need the rain. There's no doubt about that," said Mayor James Grimes in the town of Elba.

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