Hanna takes aim at Bahamas, Ike next in line

September 5, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Tropical Storm Hanna roared past the edge of the Bahamas on Thursday ahead of a possible hurricane hit on the Carolinas, leaving behind at least 137 dead in Haiti. Hurricane Ike, a still-more-dangerous Category 4 storm, was advancing from the east.

Hanna blew by the Bahamas late Thursday, knocking out power to Cat Island and causing minor flooding in other eastern islands, but sparing the Atlantic nation major damage.

U.S. National Hurricane Center said Hanna should reach the coast of North or South Carolina by Saturday, but its sprawling bands of outer winds are likely to hit the U.S. sooner.

Haiti's government more than doubled Hanna's death toll late Thursday to 137. It had previously been 61.

Eighty of the deaths occurred in the flooded region of Gonaives and another 22 people died in areas immediately surrounding the port, according to statements released by the Ministry of the Interior and the Civil Protection Department. The remaining 35 deaths were scattered across Haiti, the statements said.

Gonaives has been almost entirely cut off by Hanna's floodwaters and virtual lakes have formed over every road.

The storm also was blamed for two deaths in Puerto Rico.

Hanna's heart was about 540 miles (870 kilometers) south Wilmington, North Carolina, late Thursday night. It was moving toward the northwest near 14 mph (22 kph).

Its maximum sustained winds were 65 mph (100 kph), but forecasters said it could become a hurricane before hitting the U.S.

Forecasters expected Hanna to strengthen only slightly before making landfall early Saturday, though hurricane watches remained for much of coastal North and South Carolina.

The governors of Virginia and North Carolina declared states of emergency and officials urged residents to head inland Thursday as Hanna approached.

In the Bahamas, Hanna snapped telephone lines in the eastern island of San Salvador as it brushed past, said Quincy Poitier, who answered the phone at the Riding Rock Inn Resort And Marina, but there were no reports of injuries.

"Most certainly I am relieved. We are tranquil," said Stephen Russell, interim director of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency.

But he was already worried about Ike and Tropical Storm Josephine behind it.

"As soon as we are clear with Hanna, we have to turn our eyes now on Ike, a powerful one coming ashore," Russell said.

By Thursday night, Ike had maximum sustained winds near 135 mph (215 kph). It was centered 475 miles (760 kilometers) north-northeast of the Leeward Islands and forecasters said it could reach the Bahamas by late Sunday or Monday.

Ike is the third major hurricane of the Atlantic season.

Josephine followed behind, with maximum sustained winds near 45 mph (75 kph).

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