Update Hanna: Charleston closes schools
Charleston County schools to close Friday
CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) ó Charleston County schools will be closed Friday and officials are urging people in low-lying areas or mobile homes to move to safer locations as Tropical Storm Hanna moves past the state.
Hanna was forecast to strengthen to a Category 1 hurricane sometime Friday as it passed by the South Carolina coast, bringing rain, high winds and rough seas.
County Emergency Preparedness director Cathy Haynes said the Charleston area could experience tropical storm-force winds and possible hurricane-strength gusts.
Charleston firefighters passed out about 10,000 sand bags Wednesday and Thursday to local residents. Some said they were more concerned about Hurricane Ike, a powerful Category 4 storm approaching the Caribbean.
NC Gov. Easley declares state of emergency
RALEIGH (AP) ó Gov. Mike Easley has declared a state of emergency in North Carolina as Tropical Storm Hanna churned away in the Atlantic Ocean with an eye on the stateís coast.
Easley announced the declaration at a news conference Thursday. Itís the first step the governor must take to seek federal funding to respond to a natural disaster.
Hanna is expected to hit North Carolinaís southern coast on Friday.
Easley advised residents not only to be wary of Hannaís progress, but also to keep an eye on Hurricane Ike, which has strengthened to a Category 4 storm in the Atlantic.
The governor said people should be wary of the two storms for the next two weeks.
Voluntary evacuations called for in Horry, Georgetown
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) ó Gov. Mark Sanford has called for voluntary evacuations in Georgetown and Horry counties as Tropical Storm Hanna moves slowly toward South Carolinaís coast.
Sanford said during a news conference Thursday that three emergency shelters in those areas would be opened. In addition, 70 Highway Patrol troopers will be sent to the area to monitor traffic.
He also said he wonít call for a mandatory evacuation because he believes the storm poses little threat to North Carolina.
Earlier Thursday, the National Weather Service issued hurricane watches for much of South Carolinaís coastline, meaning hurricane conditions are possible within 36 hours. The weather service says tropical storm force winds could reach the stateís northern coast by Friday afternoon.
NC ports to close ahead of Hannaís storm
WILMINGTON (AP) ó North Carolinaís ports are closing early and employees are being sent home as the ports prepare for winds and rain from Tropical Storm Hanna.
The state Ports Authority said Thursday the docks at Wilmington and Morehead City will be closed at noon Friday to commercial traffic. All nonessential employees will be released from work.
Ports Authority officials said they expect gale force winds off the coast around 2 p.m. Friday and ěthe terminals will be completely buttoned up by 3 p.m.î A skeleton crew will remain at the ports during the storm.
On the Net:
NC Ports: http://www.ncports.com
Campgrounds closing as storm bears down on NC
OCRACOKE (AP) ó The National Park Service is closing campgrounds on the southern end of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore in preparations for Tropical Storm Hanna.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore spokeswoman Cyndy Holda says the campground and visitors center on Ocracoke Island will close at 5 p.m. Thursday.
The campground at Frisco on Hatteras Island also will close.
Ocracoke is reachable only by boat, and Hatteras Island can be reached by boat or over a single two-lane bridge over Oregon Inlet.
Holda said officials would decide later whether to close facilities north of Frisco.
The forecast track for Hanna takes the storm over a portion of the Outer Banks where the park is located.
Fewer tracking buoys in Atlantic means less data
WILMINGTON (AP) ó Federal budget cuts have reduced the number of buoys where instruments are placed that track the strength and direction of storms along the Carolina coastlines.
Three of five buoys and three weather stations between Sunset Beach and Hilton Head Island, S.C., were taken out or shut down this year.
The Wilmington Star-News reports Thursday that the instruments monitored about 250 miles of coastline in the same area where Tropical Storm Hanna is expected to strike this week.
Forecasters still can determine the path of storms, but the newspaper said the buoys and stations helped determine storm surge and wave heights.
Information from: The Star-News, http://starnewsonline.com
Coast Guard alerts mariners
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (AP) ó The Coast Guard says it is flying a plane off the coast of North Carolina to alert mariners of Tropical Storm Hanna.
Officials with the Fifth Coast Guard District in Portsmouth say a C-130 crew from Elizabeth City, N.C., is departing at noon Thursday to fly over the storm.
The crew will fly 200 miles off the coasts of Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina alerting boaters of the storm. It will use radio signals to make an urgent broadcast every 15 minutes with information about the storm, its path and precautions to take.
The Coast Guard says crews typically stay out between two and four hours.
Shaw Air Force Base sticks with air show
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (AP) ó The weekend air show at Shaw Air Force Base is still on schedule, as officials keep a wary eye on Tropical Storm Hanna.
Officials at the base 35 miles east of Columbia say the Saturday event will open on schedule at 10 a.m.
If the weather permits, aerial demonstrations of the stealthy F-22 Raptor fighter jet, the F-16 Fighting Falcon and World War II-era P-51 Mustangs will take place throughout the day.
Shaw officials say the show is free to the public.
Officials say they also have displays of vintage and modern aircraft, such as the ground support A-10 Thunderbolt, the F/A-18 fighter jet and the tilt-rotor V-22 Osprey, which can hover like a helicopter and fly like a turboprop.