- The Washington Times - Monday, September 1, 2008

PROVIDENCIALES, TURKS AND CAICOS (AP) - Hurricane Hanna stalled for hours over the southeastern Bahamas on Monday, lashing the islands with fierce winds and rain. Forecasters said it could hit the southeast United States by midweek.

Meanwhile Tropical Storm Ike emerged as a new threat in the open sea, as the National Hurricane Center in Miami monitored three weaker weather systems moving westward across the Atlantic.

Hanna, with maximum sustained winds near 80 mph (130 kph), lingered for much of the day near Mayaguana and nearby islands in the southeast Bahamas.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or major damage, but emergency teams were waiting for the storm to clear before conducting a thorough assessment, said Stephen Russell, interim director of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency.

“I’m quite certain there is going to be damage, particularly in Mayaguana,” he said.

Rough seas caused by Hanna and Hurricane Gustav, which battered the U.S. Gulf Coast on Monday, were being blamed for at least two deaths in Florida. The Broward Country Sheriffs office said Bradley Perleberg, 41, and Terry Ann Perleberg, 45, drowned off the coast of Fort Lauderdale on Sunday.

Hanna also brought strong winds, heavy rain and pounding surf to Inagua and Crooked Island in the Bahamas, as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands to the south. Within days, it was expected to begin threatening the southeastern U.S.

“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 National Hurricane Center. “So people really need to keep an eye on it.”

Far behind Hanna lay Ike _ still about 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometers) out in the Atlantic Ocean, but expected to become a hurricane in the next 36 hours and continue along a course toward the Bahamas.

NASA 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 officials also were keeping a nervous watch on Hanna and the weather behind it, careful not to overextend the assistance the state provides to other Gulf Coast states dealing with Gustav.

At 8 p.m. EDT (0000 GMT) on Monday, Hanna’s center was practically stationary near the Caicos Islands. The storm’s winds and rain reached all the way to Haiti, where 8,000 people were in temporary housing after Gustav destroyed homes and farms.

Hanna was expected to bring up to 12 inches (30 centimeters) of rain to the Turks chain, a popular tourist destination home to about 22,000 people.

Tourists Jason and Carolina Volpi were prevented from leaving Providenciales as authorities shut down the airport. They said they couldn’t get a flight 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 in Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.

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