- The Washington Times - Friday, September 5, 2008

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine declared a state of emergency Thursday and Maryland officials expect to close the Chesapeake Bay Bridge as Tropical Storm Hanna gathers hurricane strength and approaches the region. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley also declared a limited state of emergency.

Hanna, responsible for at least 137 deaths in Haiti as the storm crossed the Caribbean, could bring strong thunderstorms and high winds to the Washington area as early as Friday night, according to the National Weather Service.

North Carolina Gov. Michael F. Easley also declared a state of emergency, which frees up resources for storm response.

Mr. Kaine said the storm poses a threat of flooding, tornadoes and power outages across Virginia’s coastal areas.

“Virginians should listen to their local government representatives and local news media for instructions for the duration of the storm,” he said.

The National Weather Service forecast a 70 percent chance of heavy rain and thunderstorms for Friday night and all of Saturday.

“Hanna will be remembered as a nor’easter, not a terribly destructive storm, but one that will bring wind and rain to the East Coast from Virginia to Boston,” AccuWeather.com meteorologist John Kocet said. The storm should reach hurricane strength before making landfall, and at least 2 to 3 inches of rain will fall along the Interstate 95 corridor, Mr. Kocet said.

But even with Hanna approaching, attention was focused on Ike, a Category 4 hurricane approaching the Bahamas. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was sending hundreds of truckloads of meals, water and other supplies to the East Coast but also leaving resources on the Gulf Coast in case Ike heads there.

“Ike looks like it’s a very, very dangerous storm,” FEMA Administrator R. David Paulison said.

Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell reminded merchants that the declaration puts into effect for 30 days a 2004 law that prohibits charging “unconscionable” prices for goods and services deemed necessary.

The limited emergency declaration by Mr. O’Malley applied to most counties in the eastern part of the state. Hanna could bring 2 to 4 inches of rain on Saturday and wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour. Sustained winds of up to 20 miles per hour are expected, said Maryland hurricane planner Robert Ward. In a briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Reisterstown, Mr. Ward said waters could rise up to 3 feet above normal and cause coastal flooding.

The Bay Bridge may be forced to close Saturday because of high winds. Hanna likely will cross the Chesapeake on Saturday afternoon and could affect the Ocean City area, said Richard Muth, director of the Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

D.C. officials are urging residents to prepare emergency kits that include nonperishable food and water for three to five days. Residents are also advised to obtain battery- or crank-powered radios to stay informed in case of power outages.

Officials in South Carolina opened several emergency shelters, restricted port hours and urged people to leave flood-prone areas and mobile homes in two northern counties by Friday afternoon.

South Carolina planned to send 70 state troopers to monitor traffic along evacuation routes.

In Charleston, south of where the storm was expected to hit, officials distributed 10,000 sandbags and urged residents in low-lying areas to head inland.

North Carolina officials prepared to open schools for use as shelters and planned to close ports Friday.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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