- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 6, 2008

Strong winds, heavy rain and some flooding are expected in the area Saturday as Tropical Storm Hanna — possibly at hurricane force — rolls up the coast, meteorologists said.

“We expect winds between 25 and 30 miles per hour with some gusts reaching 40 miles per hour but nothing that should reach hurricane wind speeds around here,” said Jared Klein of the National Weather Service’s Baltimore/Washington office in Sterling, Va. “If we get a lot of heavy rains combined with those winds we could see some power outages, though.”

As Hanna picked up speed Friday, the National Weather Service maintained a tropical storm warning and a flash-flood watch for the entire area, and forecast 4 to 8 inches of rain. The rains are expected to persist until early afternoon, according to Mr. Klein.

The storm was expected to pick up speed and possibly be upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane before it touched land overnight in South Carolina, according to Allan Reppert, a meteorologist with AccuWeather.com.

The southeastern parts of Virginia and Maryland will likely be the hardest hit, but residents throughout the area were cautioned to be wary of flooding, downed power lines and even small tornadoes, particularly in southern Virginia. Wind gusts could reach up to and above 60 mph, Mr. Reppert said.

“Make sure you pick up all outdoor objects that could be picked up by the wind,” Mr. Klein warned.

Maryland emergency management officials were urging residents not to wait until the last minute to prepare for possible flooding.

Maryland Emergency Management Agency chief of staff Edward Hopkins said the storm was moving fast - but he cautioned that tropical storms are unpredictable. If Hanna slows or stalls over part of Maryland, that area could get massive amounts of rainfall.

On Thursday, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, declared a state of emergency, directing state agencies to take all reasonable actions to protect the health and safety of Virginians from the potentially damaging effects of Tropical Storm Hanna.

In the District, officials prepared for the possibility of flooding in low-lying neighborhoods by removing debris from catch basins and stockpiling sandbags, said Jo’Ellen Countee, a D.C. Emergency Management Agency spokesman. Portable pumps and generators also were to be placed in problem areas.

The storm is expected to have moved on to New England by Sunday, leaving sunny skies in its wake.

In only a few spots in the Carolinas did emergency officials urge evacuations or open shelters for Hanna. Forecasters said there was only a small chance it could become a hurricane, and most people simply planned to stay off the roads until the storm passed.

“If it was a Category 1 or 2, I might think about leaving,” said Eddie Brown of Gastonia, N.C., who planned to spend the weekend at Myrtle Beach. “And I tell you, if it was Ike, I’d already be long gone.”

Some refused to cancel long-set plans to visit the shore. Terry Hash arrived in Myrtle Beach on Thursday, ready to celebrate her 50th birthday with college friends from Colgate University at the Raiders football game against Coastal Carolina.

“I’m not worried because it’s not a Category 4,” Ms. Hash said. “I just love the beach when it’s stormy. It really shows the power the ocean has.”

High tide came in midday and rolled all the way up to the dunes along parts of Myrtle Beach, drawing hundreds of people to gawk and walk along the shore. Vacationers strolled among the T-shirt shops and beachwear stores of South Carolina’s most popular tourist destination. A few risked the water, despite the red “No Swimming” flags.

“I saw the waves and I figured I probably won’t get another chance to do this. Might as well try it,” said Burt Leibach, 29, of Pittsburgh. “It’s rough - knock you off your feet a few times. But it’s fun.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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