Military agencies in SC warily eye storm - - Columbia, South Carolina

Military agencies in SC warily eye storm

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Military installations along the South Carolina coast are closely watching Hanna.
The Charleston Air Force Base has told its personnel and residents to prepare for the storm's arrival, which could require evacuation of the base. Base personnel also are preparing to fly the base's C-17s to other bases, should that become necessary.

Meanwhile, the Coast Guard is advising all commercial vessels and oceangoing barges of more than 500 gross tons to make plans to leave the Port of Charleston.

South Carolina's Emergency Management Division is going on 24-hour operations as officials closely watch the progress of Tropical Storm Hanna.

Division spokesman Derrec Becker said Tuesday officials are in close contact with the National Hurricane Center and Gov. Mark Sanford about the storm.

Becker said Sanford has the final say on whether evacuations will be needed. He said there has been discussion - but no final decision - on reversing lanes on highways leading to the coast.

The National Hurricane Center said the storm could make landfall later this week anywhere from Florida to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The latest projected path brings the storm in near Charleston on Friday afternoon as a Category 2 hurricane.

South Carolina Emergency Management Division spokesman Joe Farmer says county and state officials had a conference call Monday.

Farmer told WIS News 10 Louisiana and Mississippi have sent out a request to all states for help with Hurricane Gustav. At this point, however, Farmer says South Carolina isn't able to act because the state is protecting its assets for Hanna and other pending storms.

Preparations in South Carolina will gear up everywhere later this week when forecasters get a better idea where Hanna will go.

Emergency officials in Charleston County have already moved to a higher state of alert as they watch Hanna. Officials are monitoring the storm and have notified county workers they should be alert and may be called into the county emergency operations center later this week.

And Governor Mark Sanford is keeping an eye on Hanna while attending the Republican convention in Minnesota this week.

Sanford's spokesman Joel Sawyer says the governor keeps in touch with emergency officials and is ready to return to the state if necessary.

Hurricane Gustav, which came ashore in Louisiana, has already affected Sanford. His Monday speech to the GOP convention was canceled when organizers scaled back the event because of the storm.

Forecasters have said Hanna could hit the U.S. anywhere between Miami and the North Carolina Outer Banks.

"We've got South Carolina here, and we have our Tropical Storm Hanna down here," says NWS meteorologist Dan Miller.

The storm is days away, and there's already talk that its impact could be potentially stronger than anything to hit the area in nearly 20 years.

"At this point and time, we're not trying to tell people that this is going to be another Hugo," says Miller.

Hugo was a Category 4 hurricane, and Hanna is a Category 1 for now.

"However, a Category 1 hurricane can still produce significant storms and significant wind damage," says Miller.

Tornados are also a possibility, and power outages are expected in counties like Richland and Lexington.

If that's the case, officials say people should have non-perishable foods, flashlights, radios and extra batteries.

"Exactly where it will go is still uncertain," says Miller.

For now, the biggest concern is along the coast. The National Weather Service is keeping an eye on Hanna's track, currently expected to make landfall on Friday.
"I would suspect there's a good chance, knowing what we know now, there could be evacuations ordered for parts of the South Carolina coast," says Miller.

South Carolina Emergency Management will have to make that call. Officials there tell WIS they're monitoring the situation, and plans hinge on whether Hanna stays on track or takes an unexpected turn.

"Right now, we're four days out. There's still some uncertainty, but yet this is a big enough threat to inform people that something significant could happen," says Miller.

So even if Hanna isn't another Hugo, it could still leave a huge mark on South Carolina, its coast and beyond.

At 8am Tuesday, the center of Tropical Storm Hanna was located very near Great Inagua Island and about 385 southeast of Nassau. Hanna is drifting toward the west near 2mph. 

Forecasts say slow and erratic motion is expected Tuesday but Hanna is expected to begin moving northwestward Tuesday night and Wednesday.

On the forecast track, Hanna will move over the southeastern Bahamas Tuesday and into the central Bahamas Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Maximum sustained winds have decreased to 70mph with higher gusts. The threshold for hurricane winds is 74 mph.

Hanna could regain hurricane strength later Tuesday or Wednesday, forecasters said.  

Meanwhile, newly-formed Tropical Storm Ike is cruising westward across the Atlantic. It's expected to be near the Bahamas by Sunday. Top winds are now at 50 miles an hour, and they're expected to grow stronger.

And Josephine formed in the eastern Atlantic, making it the 10th tropical storm of the season.

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Reported by Dan Tordjman

Updated by Logan Smith

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