PROVIDENCIALES, TURKS AND CAICOS (AP) - Hurricane Hanna lingered Monday over the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos islands on a path that could hit the southeastern U.S. coast by midweek, while Tropical Storm Ike and still another weather pattern behind it raised the possibility of more havoc to come.
Hanna slowed and intensified Monday afternoon, battering the island chains with top sustained winds near 80 mph and heavy surf.
“Right now, the uncertainty is such that it could hit anywhere from Miami to the outer banks of North Carolina,” said Jessica Schauer Clark, a meteorologist at the hurricane center. “So people really need to keep an eye on it.”
Ike was hot on Hanna’s tail _ still about 1,400 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, but expected to become a hurricane in the next 36 hours as it too approaches the Bahamas. And just leaving the coast of Africa was still another weather pattern that forecasters expect to become a tropical storm.
NASA wasn’t taking any chances _ it announced a delay of at least a day in the planned move of the space shuttle Atlantis from an assembly building at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center to the launch pad. The move had been scheduled for Tuesday in preparation for an October mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Florida state officials also were keeping nervous watch on Hanna and the weather behind it, careful not to overextend the assistance it provides to other Gulf Coast states dealing with Gustav.
At 5 p.m. EDT, Hanna’s center was located near Mayaguana Island, moving west-southwest at 3 mph (5 kms) with maximum sustained winds near 80 mph (129 kms) and higher gusts.
“The storm’s on top of us right now and it’s blowing really hard,” said Miguel Campbell, a mechanic with the Bahamas Electricity Corp. on Mayaguana, the easternmost island in the Bahamas, where some 300 people were hunkered down, emptying the streets and closing the airport.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or major damage, but Hanna’s winds and rain reached all the way to Haiti, where thousands remain homeless in the wake of Hurricane Gustav, which was battering the U.S. Gulf Coast on Monday.
Hanna was expected to bring up to 12 inches of rain to the Turks chain, a popular tourist destination with about 22,000 people.
Tourists Jason and Carolina Volpi were out of luck as they tried to leave. The Providenciales airport was shut down and all flights were canceled. They couldn’t get seats out until Thursday, too late to attend business meetings back in Italy.
“The situation is very frustrating,” Jason Volpi, 36, said as they waited under darkening skies for a taxi back to their hotel.
The European Union said Monday it would give 2 million (US$2.9 million) to help the recovery from Gustav, which killed 94 people. The money will pay for clean water, food, medical care, shelter and basic household items in Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic. In Haiti, 8,000 people are in temporary housing after high winds and floods destroyed homes and farms.
AP Aerospace Writer Marcia Dunn contributed to this report.