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Hanna soaks mid-Atlantic; Ike closes in

Despite flooding and outages, storm damage in the U.S. is less than expected. Focus shifts to the hurricane.

September 07, 2008|Maura Reynolds and David Zucchino | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — Tropical Storm Hanna poured as much as 9 inches of rain on the mid-Atlantic, causing flooding in some low-lying areas in Virginia and sporadic power outages before plowing north through Delaware and New York.

As the weakening storm headed toward New England, focus quickly turned toward Ike, which strengthened to a Category 4 hurricane.

Preparations for Ike stretched more than 1,000 miles as the massive, 135-mph storm took a southwesterly shift that could send it over Cuba and the Florida Keys by Tuesday before it heads into the warm open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. And once again, a possible target was New Orleans and the already storm-weary U.S. Gulf Coast.

First in Ike's path was the low-lying British territory of Turks and Caicos, already pummeled for four days last week by Tropical Storm Hanna.

In Haiti, authorities tried to move thousands of people into shelters ahead of Ike while still struggling to recover from Hanna. Rescue workers feared that Hanna's death toll could rise into the hundreds in the flooded city of Gonaives and that aid efforts could be further impeded as Ike approached.

Tourists were urged to leave the Bahamas, and authorities in the Dominican Republic began evacuating dozens of families who live on the banks of a river that could be flooded by two already overfilled dams.

In Louisiana, still recovering from last week's Hurricane Gustav, Gov. Bobby Jindal set up a task force to prepare for the possibility of a new round of havoc.

"We're not hoping for another strike, another storm, but we're ready," he said.

Throughout the Eastern Seaboard, damage from Hanna was less than expected, in large part because the wind rarely topped 50 mph over land. There were sporadic power outages across the region, and several motorists died when their vehicles hydroplaned off rain-slicked roads.

"We were prepared for this one to be worse than it was, but that's not to make light of the fact that we've had some weather-related traffic fatalities," Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine told reporters in a conference call.

Minor flooding was reported in parts of New Jersey, but Nick Morici, spokesman for the state office of emergency management, said no requests for emergency assistance came in.

"It has just been a significant wind and rain event. Anything we've seen . . . hasn't been widespread," Morici said.

In the New York City area Hanna flooded highways and delayed flights for hours, but officials reported no major damage. Still, the storm's threat was enough to postpone an afternoon baseball game between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets. Rain also suspended play at the U.S. Open tennis tournament, being held in Queens.

Earlier Saturday, Hanna buffeted eastern North Carolina but passed quickly through the state, causing minimal damage.

The storm left patches of flooding, scattered power outages and some coastal erosion after making landfall at 3:20 a.m. along the North Carolina-South Carolina border. Some early morning flights were canceled at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, but the facility remained open.

Top winds did not exceed 60 mph, but Hanna did dump 4 to 6 inches of rain on North Carolina, which is still recovering from a devastating drought last summer and fall. At its peak around daybreak, the storm was pouring 4 inches of rain an hour in some areas.

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maura.reynolds@latimes.com

david.zucchino@latimes.com

Reynolds reported from Washington and Zucchino from Durham, N.C. The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

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