CHARLOTTE -- Tropical Storm Hanna is racing northward after raking the Carolina coast overnight, soaking eastern North Carolina but sparing all but the eastern fringes of the Charlotte region.
And even there, effects were minimal. Up to 3 inches of rain has fallen in far eastern Union County, and eastern Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties got some rain, too. But nothing fell west of Interstate 77, and any rain should be long gone by later this morning as Hanna bolts up the Atlantic coast, said Rodney Hinson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Greer, S.C.
"The rain's already ending, really," Hinson said.
Hanna's center is just north of Fayetteville and is expected to reach the Virginia line by early afternoon. It never reached hurricane strength, but it continues to pack maximum sustained winds of 60 mph.
Forecasters on Friday issued a flash flood warning for the Charlotte area, fearing 2 or 3 inches of rain might overwhelm ground already saturated last week by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay. But no flooding was reported, and even the wind stayed to the east: Eastern Union County reported gusts up to about 20 mph, Hinson said -- standard for mild thunderstorms.
Carolinians are turning their eyes to Hanna's successor, Hurricane Ike, a dangerous Category 3 storm churning through the Atlantic north of Puerto Rico. But the National Hurricane Center projects Ike to slide between Florida and Cuba and reach the Gulf of Mexico, not the Atlantic Coast, by Wednesday.
Elsewhere in North Carolina, Hanna pushed heavy rain inland to the Triangle and the rest of the Piedmont but spared the rest of the state major damage.
The main threat now is flooding. A flash flood warning is in effect for the Triangle until 8:30 a.m. Rainfall at Raleigh-Durham International Airport has totaled 3.33 inches since Friday afternoon, said Scott Sharp, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raleigh.
All hurricane watches have been discontinued, but a high wind warning is in effect until 4 p.m. for the Triangle and points east. Wind up to 45 mph is possible this morning in Wake County, the weather service says. The strongest gusts in the Triangle have reached 24 mph, Sharp said.
Raleigh-Durham International Airport is open, but about 25 flights, mostly departures, have been canceled, said airport spokesman Andrew Sawyer. Travelers are advised to contact their airlines before leaving for the airport.
Between 9,000 and 12,000 homes in the state have lost power, said Mark Van Sciver of the state's Emergency Operations Center. Most of them are in the southeast, in Brunswick, New Hanover and Bladen counties, although about 1,600 homes in Wake County have had outages.
No injuries have been reported from the storm, and no major roads have been closed, although residents are still urged to use caution, Van Sciver said.
At 6 a.m., the heaviest rain was in the Piedmont and Sandhills, in a band stretching roughly from Danville, Va., to Laurinburg. Some rain was falling around Cape Lookout and the southern and central parts of the Outer Banks.
The track of the storm will keep the heaviest rain in the Piedmont and Sandhills for a few hours, Sharp said.
"Things should be improving by 8 o'clock" in the Triangle, Sharp said. "I think by midday it will be tapering off or ending here."
Hanna made landfall about 3:20 a.m. near the Carolinas state line, the weather service said. As the storm approached, about 1,500 people went to 49 emergency shelters in the state overnight, Van Sciver said.
But storm-seasoned residents remained calm, with many people hitting the beach to gawk at rising waves and TV weather personalities. Hanna's arrival comes on the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Fran, which caused extensive damage from the southern beaches to central North Carolina.
About 8:30 p.m., locals gathered near the Avalon Fishing Pier in Kill Devil Hills. With his shirttail flapping in the breeze, Shannon Swindell of Kill Devil Hills watched his 5-year-old son, Ian, splash in the surf. Having lived on the North Carolina coast his entire life, Swindell, 35, said he has never evacuated for a storm.
If you leave, he said, "a lot of times it's too hard to get home."
Although no injuries have been reported from the storm, shortly after dusk Friday emergency management officials on Harkers Island and the U.S. Coast Guard launched a search for a missing wind surfer. The surfer made his way back to land on his own and was located shortly before 9 p.m., according to Carteret County EMS.
The Neuse and Pamlico rivers also were expected to surge 2 to 4 feet, creating a moderate risk of flooding.
The storm was likely to leave minimal to moderate beach erosion, emergency officials said, with the possibility of overwash in North Topsail Beach along some parts of the Outer Banks.
Sunset Beach, at the southern end of North Carolina, issued a mandatory evacuation order, then closed a swing bridge providing access to the mainland.
Officials in other ocean-front communities decided against a mandatory evacuation.
Many businesses closed early so workers could cover storefront windows with corrugated steel panels that have been in storage for years. The bars stayed open, however, with several advertising hurricane drink specials. The Low Country of South Carolina, where Hanna had been aimed earlier, was spared the brunt of the storm. Moderate rain and wind were reported in areas south of Charleston. Some road flooding was reported in Charleston and Georgetown.
Up the coast, some power outages were reported in Myrtle Beach and other parts of Horry County.
But by mid-morning, S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford, who had planned to visit the area today to talk to emergency workers, had cancelled the trip. His spokesman said there just wasn't much damage to assess.
-- The Charlotte Observer, The (Raleigh) News & Observer and The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News contributed.