- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 29, 2004

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) — Tropical Storm Gaston sloshed ashore in South Carolina yesterday with near hurricane-force winds, spinning sheets of rain that flooded roads as the storm knocked out power for thousands of people.

Gaston hit land near McClellanville, a small fishing village that was walloped by Hurricane Charley earlier this month when it came ashore for a second time after devastating southwest Florida.

Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican, declared a state of emergency and encouraged “folks to stay in their homes for the time being so damage-assessment crews, utility crews and debris-removal crews can do their jobs.”

As much as 8 inches of rain had fallen along some parts of the coast by midday, and a flash-flood watch was in effect. Hundreds of residents were urged to evacuate ahead of the storm.

Hours after the eye of Gaston came ashore, steady sheets of rain pelted Mount Pleasant. Tree limbs littered flooded roadways, some of which were impassable. Palmettos were pushed to the pavement and road signs twisted in the wind.

Across the harbor in Charleston, Gaston flooded streets and pushed over power poles. At least 125,000 people were without power at the height of the storm.

The rain tapered off along the coast by midday, but blustery wind still raked the coastline near Charleston, and traffic lights were not functioning at intersections throughout the area.

Charleston County officials said that there was only one initial report of a serious injury — a resident injured when a tree fell onto a home.

Gaston — the hurricane season’s seventh named storm — had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph when it hit land but was down to 45 mph by early afternoon. The weakened storm was forecast to reach North Carolina by last night.

Already by midafternoon, bands of rain had reached North Carolina. No flooding was reported, but the strong winds tore the roof off of a house in Laurinburg, officials said.

In the Atlantic Ocean, meanwhile, Hurricane Frances had sustained winds of 135 mph about 550 miles east of the Leeward Islands in the southeastern Caribbean.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said that people in locations ranging from Cuba to the southeastern United States should monitor the progress of the storm, which could strengthen and threaten land by Labor Day weekend.

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