The U.S. is getting pounded this season

Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) — Tropical Storm Hanna skirted the Bahamas after killing dozens in Haiti and threatened to strike the U.S. Southeast as a hurricane by the weekend.

Farther out to sea, the “extremely dangerous” Hurricane Ike was packing 140-mph (225-kph) winds, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Hanna’s eye was about 205 miles (400 kilometers) east of Nassau in the Bahamas and 670 miles south-southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, the Hurricane Center said at 2 p.m. Miami time. Sustained winds were about 65 miles per hour.

“The U.S. is getting pounded this season — the gloves are off,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director of Weather Underground in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “The Carolinas will see winds near hurricane strength from Hanna. And Ike looks troubling, especially for Florida.”

Ike may be over the Bahamas in five days, heading toward southern Florida, NHC forecasts show.

From there, it’s unclear whether the Category 4 storm would head northward along the eastern seaboard or into the Gulf of Mexico, Masters said.

The Gulf is home to more than a quarter of U.S. oil production. Crude oil for October delivery fell $2.23, or 2 percent, to $107.12 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, reversing an earlier increase.

`Sprawling’ Hanna

Hanna is forecast to pass just east of the Bahamas today and head for the Southeast coast of the U.S. tomorrow, possibly with hurricane-force winds of at least 74 mph. The system is “sprawling,” the center said, with tropical-storm force winds, from 39 to 73 mph, extending 290 miles from the eye.

“Rains and winds associated with Hanna will reach the coast well in advance of the center,” the government forecaster said.

Forecasts show the storm skirting the Florida and South Carolina coasts tomorrow and coming ashore near Wilmington, North Carolina, the following day.

Hanna roared off Hispaniola’s northern coast for two days, flooding the island, which is shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Haiti, the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, and the Dominican Republic have been hit by Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricane Gustav in the past three weeks.

Hanna has already killed at least 61 people in Haiti, where rains inundated Gonaives, a city of 300,000 north of the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince, according to the Associated Press.

A hurricane watch was issued for the U.S. East Coast from Ocracoke, North Carolina, to the vicinity of Edisto Beach, South Carolina. A tropical-storm watch stretched southward from Edisto Beach to Altamaha Sound, Georgia.

Medicine, Food, Water

Residents in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina should develop emergency plans and prepare kits including medicine, food, water and batteries to support themselves for 72 hours, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said in a statement on its Web Site.

Virginia declared a state of emergency today and warned of heavy rain and winds in coming days. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford urged residents in two coastal counties to consider seeking higher ground.

Ike strengthened into the third major hurricane of the June 1-Nov. 1 Atlantic season.

Ike is a Category 4 storm, the second-strongest on the five- step Saffir-Simpson scale, the center said. The hurricane’s eye was 525 miles northeast of the Leeward Islands and moving west- northwest. The system may weaken over the next day or two.

To the east of Ike, Tropical Storm Josephine weakened, with sustained winds at 50 mph. It was about 520 miles west of the southernmost Cape Verde islands and moving west-northwest.

To contact the reporter on this story: Demian McLean in Washington at dmclean8@bloomberg.net.

Last Updated: September 4, 2008 14:16 EDT
By Demian McLean

Source: Bloomberg

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