Carolinas weather Hanna with few problems

Associated PressSeptember 6, 2008 

  • WHAT TO EXPECT

    In the Midlands on Saturday, expect showers before 2 p.m. It will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 89; west winds could be 25 to 30 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph.

    In the Lowcountry, expect stormy conditions in the morning, with rain and northeast winds of 35-40 mph. Thunderstorms could produce tornadoes. Highs will be in the upper 80s.

    Along the Grand Strand, tropical storm conditions -- rain and wind -- could persist until noon, after Tropical Storm Hanna passes through. Winds still could gust as high as 34 mph.

Town-by-town damage report

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MYRTLE BEACH | Tropical Storm Hanna downed trees, flooded roads and caused scattered power outages after hitting land near the North Carolina state line early Saturday, but caused no serious problems in the Carolinas.

Hours after dumping rain and damaging two hotel awnings, the drone of leaf blowers drowned out the calls of seagulls along Myrtle Beach as workers at beachfront hotels cleaned pathways and brought chairs back to the shoreline.

Jason Webb, 24, hit the beach first thing in the morning and said he was glad he wasn't going to lose much time outside for his vacation from Hendersonville, N.C.

"When the power went out and the winds kicked up and the rain was coming sideways, I figured there was no way we were going to get out today," said Webb, who was helping his 5-year-old daughter build sandcastles.

By the time it reached the coast, the storm's top sustained winds had dropped to about 60 mph from near 70 mph while the storm was over water. Heavy rain fell in the area, including 5 inches in Fayetteville, N.C., and the Sandhills region.

No rain fell to the west in Charlotte, where Tropical Storm Fay flooded streets and forced evacuations two weeks ago. To the east, on North Carolina's Outer Banks, the stinging sand and sea spray didn't keep 78-year-old William Cusick from getting up early to walk his dog on the beach.

"I don't see anything too exciting about this — it's not too serious," Cusick said.

Some flood-prone streets closed; in all, about 1,000 people in North Carolina and 650 in South Carolina sought cover in emergency shelters along the coast. More than 60,000 customers — mostly around Wilmington, N.C. — were without power early Saturday in both states. But by early Saturday morning, people were heading back to their homes and disaster planners were shutting down operations. South Carolina utility companies said they expected the few dozen customers still lacking electricity in their state would get it back by the afternoon.

Gov. Mark Sanford, who had planned to meet with officials in Georgetown and Horry counties, canceled the trip when it became clear that damage was minimal. He lauded emergency planners for their work and invited people to the shore for what was forecast to be a sunny, if breezy, remainder of the weekend.

"Above all else we're all very thankful that damage along the coast was minimal and that's obviously very good news," Sanford said. "Equally good news is that it looks like it's going to be a great weekend on the Grand Strand. So as we're standing down from the storm, I want everyone to know that our beaches are indeed open for business, and we hope to see you there."

The sun was peeking out and there was only a light breeze along the beach. The only hitch in what seemed to be an otherwise decent day were dangers from rip currents that beach patrol officers said would probably last all day.

Tom Berger and his buddies from Akron, Ohio, got a nice surprise when they discovered they'd be able to keep their tee time at one of the areas golf courses. A day earlier, the group was sure its four-day golf trip was going to end at 75 holes after an outer band of rain washed out a round on the fourth tee.

"We were a little nervous. That rain and wind yesterday was so bad, we didn't think there was any way we'd get this in," Berger said Saturday as he carried his clubs to his car. "But somebody wants us to play some more."

A few fallen pine tree branches and needles cluttered the narrow streets in the residential sections of Myrtle Beach, but dozens of people were out walking their dogs and jogging. As Hanna headed north, residents here already were paying close attention to powerful Hurricane Ike out in the Atlantic, a storm that could approach Cuba and southern Florida by Monday, but did not appear likely to hit South Carolina.

Harry Lombard, 61, said the only hurricane he fled was Hugo in 1989. He planned to clean up a few branches and other debris in his yard after he finished walking his dog, had some coffee and checked on Ike's track.

"Ike looks mean. I'm not staying around for that one," Lombard said.

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Associated Press Writer Mike Baker in Nags Head, N.C., contributed to this report.

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