Tropical Storm Hanna lashed the US states of South and North Carolina yesterday, prompting coastal residents to seek refuge inland and authorities to declare a state of emergency.
The even more powerful Hurricane Ike threatened Caribbean islands and the US.
Hanna prompted emergency preparations along more than 1,600km of the North and South Carolina coastline, after unleashing flooding and landslides in Haiti that displaced thousands and left as many as 200,000 with little or no food or water.
The US National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami said the storm was about to make landfall somewhere along the border between South and North Carolinas, potentially affecting tens of millions of Americans.
Heavy rain, wind and high surf began to lash the southeast coast late on Friday after the governors of North Carolina and Virginia declared states of emergency. South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford called for people to evacuate two counties.
At around midnight yesterday, the stormed packed sustained winds near 110kph. The eye of the storm was just 45km southeast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and 95km southwest of Wilmington, North Carolina, the NHC said.
“Although no significant change in strength is forecast before landfall, it would take only a small increase in wind speed for Hanna to become a hurricane,” it said.
Several southern US states have endured Tropical Storm Fay and Hurricane Gustav in recent weeks and officials expressed concern that people along the coast were not taking Hanna seriously.
“The response is not what we would want it to be,” Sam Hodge, emergency manager for Georgetown, South Carolina, told CBS News. “We feel there should be more people evacuating.”
Authorities also kept a wary eye on the more formidable Hurricane Ike out in the Atlantic.
Ike was forecast to spare Haiti while the Caribbean nation struggled to recover from devastating flooding from Hanna which killed 163 people.
“At least for now” Haiti looks likely to be spared yet another hit, NHC spokeswoman Karina Castillo said.
The poorest country in the Americas is now reeling from the devastation inflicted by three storms in as many weeks that killed more than 280 people.
The country’s third largest city Gonaives remained under water following Hanna and Senator Yuri Latortue, who represents the city, called the situation “catastrophic.”
A lifeline was extended to thousands when a boat carrying World Food Program relief supplies docked at Gonaives port, the agency said.
The Haitian government pleaded for international aid and the UN prepared an emergency appeal. Switzerland, France, the US, the EU and the Red Cross were among early aid givers.
Ike was on course to pummel the Bahamas yesterday and today before possibly slamming into Cuba, which has also been battered by this hurricane season’s series of storms.
Ike is then forecast to make landfall in Florida on Wednesday as a major hurricane, Castillo said.
Densely populated south Florida, including the cities of Miami and Fort Lauderdale, has not been hit by a major hurricane since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.