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Storms line up to slam western Atlantic, southeastern US

by Staff Writers
Miami (AFP) Sept 4, 2008
A powerful hurricane and two tropical storms on Thursday threaten to wreak more destruction in the waterlogged Caribbean and southeastern United States in the coming days.

Tropical Storm Hanna closed in on the southeastern United States after it hammered Haiti, triggering floods and landslides that killed at least 61 people and leaving thousands homeless, local authorities said.

Hanna could strengthen and gain hurricane status on Friday before reaching the US coastline, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.

Hanna "has been an erratic storm. It's already done a lot of flooding (and) we are expecting it to strengthen slightly" before Friday, when it is due to pound the US states of North or South Carolina, Hurricane Center forecaster John Cangialosi told AFP.

At 1800 GMT the center of Hanna was about 330 kilometers (205 miles) east of Nassau in the Bahamas, moving toward the northwest at about 22 kilometers (14 miles) per hour.

Forecasters expected Hanna to turn north late Friday. On this path, "Hanna will pass just east of the central and northwestern Bahamas (Thursday) ... and will be near the southeast coast of the United States by late Friday."

The storm packed maximum sustained winds of near 100 kilometers (65 miles) an hour, with higher gusts.

Meanwhile monster Hurricane Ike turned into an "extremely dangerous" Category Four storm on the five-level Saffir-Simpson scale as it moved over the western Atlantic Ocean.

At 1500 GMT Hurricane Ike churned in the Atlantic some 845 kilometers (525 miles) northeast of the Leeward islands, moving in a west-northwest direction at around 26 kilometers (16 miles) an hour. It packed winds of near 220 kilometers (140 miles) an hour, with higher gusts.

"It is too early to determine what land areas might be affected by Ike," the Hurricane Center said.

Cangialosi described it as "absolutely a powerful hurricane," adding that "there is no immediate threat" to land. He said it was too soon to tell if it would track toward the US eastern coastline, or westward toward the Gulf of Mexico.

The margin of error in forecasting a storm's behavior rises considerably beyond the third day, said Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen.

Ike, however, "will affect the Bahamas," and forecasters "expect it to remain a major hurricane," Feltgen said.

A third system, Tropical Storm Josephine, was reported in the eastern Atlantic some 840 kilometers (520 miles) west of the southmost Cape Verde Islands, moving in a west-northwest direction at around 17 kilometers (10 miles) an hour.

"Little change in strength is forecast during the next couple of days," the Hurricane Center said.

The storms follow Hurricane Gustav, which ripped through the Caribbean then slammed the US Gulf Coast, and Tropical Storm Fay, which also pounded several Caribbean islands and made landfall in Florida four times, dumping record amounts of rain.

Still, this is not an unusually busy storm season. "We had five storms at one time in 1995 and 1971," said Feltman.

As meteorologists monitored Hanna and Ike, vast flooding in Haiti triggered by Hanna revived memories of lethal Tropical Storm Jeanne in September 2004, when about 3,000 people were killed, mostly in the northern city of Gonaives.

The UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) on Wednesday carried out dramatic helicopter rescues to save those stranded by the high water.

Mountainous Haiti is especially prone to flooding and landslides due to widespread deforestation on its section of the island of Hispaniola, which it shares with the Dominican Republic.

Tens of thousands of people in both countries were forced to take refuge from driving rain and flooding, though there were no casualties reported in the Dominican Republic.

Hanna struck Haiti one week after it was hit by Hurricane Gustav, which killed 77 people. Two weeks ago, Tropical Storm Fay sparked flooding in Haiti that left about 40 people dead.


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Deadly Hanna churns over Bahamas, heads to US
Port-Au-Prince (AFP) Sept 4, 2008
Tropical Storm Hanna closed in on the southeastern US Thursday after hammering Haiti and was expected to surge into a hurricane, even as explosive Hurricane Ike gathered force in the Atlantic.

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