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Deadly storm lashes Atlantic coast

Leaving more than 200 deaths behind in Haiti, Tropical Storm Hanna starts journey north along Eastern Seaboard.

WILMINGTON, NC | September 6, 2008

Tropical Storm Hanna crossed the Atlantic coast early Saturday morning near the North Carolina - South Carolina border with winds just under hurricane strength and is expected to move north along the coast, spreading heavy rain and gusty winds through Saturday.

Flash flooding was reported in North Carolina Saturday morning as the storm began its trek up the coast. Weather forecasters were warning the storm could also spawn tornadoes and other severe weather.

A coastal storm surge of two to five feet and "large and dangerous battering waves" can be expected along the coast, forecasters warned. Very heavy rainfall in the Mid-Atlantic states this weekend could produce flooding in other areas.

Although evacuations were voluntary in most areas, emergency officials reported shelters in the Carolinas and Virginia had hundreds of occupants Friday night. In Maryland, cleaning supplies and extra food was prepositioned just in case it is needed.

The Virginia National Guard readied high-water trucks and helicopters in case they were needed for rescues. And at least seven campgrounds and cabins in Virginia state parks were closed.

Amtrak suspended service Saturday on a number of routes from the Carolinas and said it would closely monitor the situation Saturday.

In preparing for Hanna, the State of North Carolina planned to use a new website, Renci (the Renaissance Computing Institute) that was created in partnership with the National Weather Service. NC First is designed to help first responders make better use of the meteorological information they get. The system is being tested for the first time under real conditions this week.

Emergency managers across that state are watching Hanna using the system's tools as they prepare for Hanna's arrival.

Watauga County Fire Marshal Sonia Stevens said Renci gives first responders a wide array of data to help them make better decisions on how best to handle a storm. She said they might not use all the data, but it is all in one place, which makes it much easier to use in emergency situations.

The storm proved deadly as it meandered through the Caribbean earlier in the week and paused over already-drenched Haiti. There, international aid officials said Friday, more than 200 residents were killed.

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