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Hanna, Hurricane Ike Take Aim at Eastern U.S., Bahamas

Willie Drye
for National Geographic News
September 5, 2008
 
As the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season approaches, U.S. coastal residents from New England to the Florida Keys (map) are warily watching two incoming storms: tropical storm Hanna and Hurricane Ike.

North Carolina and South Carolina are bracing for a deluge from tropical storm Hanna tomorrow, while Hurricane Ike—now classified as a major hurricane—is expected to be menacing South Florida (map) by early next week.

(Related: "Worst Hurricane in North Carolina: 50 Years Later" [October 14, 2004].)

As of 5 a.m. ET today, the center of tropical storm Hanna was off the coast of Florida, about 160 miles (258 kilometers) east of Melbourne. The center of the storm is expected to come ashore in the vicinity of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina (regional map).

Hanna is not expected to strengthen to hurricane force before making landfall.

Hanna is predicted to move northeastward up the East Coast after making landfall, according to meteorologist Dennis Feltgen at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The storm is likely to go back out to sea around Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on Sunday morning and cross Canada's Maritime Provinces—New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island— as a windy rainstorm.

Before turning north and heading for the U.S. Southeast, Hanna had already caused at least 60 deaths in Haiti, which barely a week ago lost at least 70 people to Hurricane Gustav.

Ike a Major Hurricane

Swirling toward the Bahamas and South Florida, Hurricane Ike is perhaps a more worrisome threat.

As of 5 a.m. ET today, Ike's center was about 500 miles (800 kilometers) northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and moving west toward the Bahamas. The hurricane's strongest winds were blowing at 125 miles (201 kilometers) an hour, making it a Category 3, and thus a major hurricane.

Feltgen said Ike is expected to lose some of its power because of wind shear—changes in upper-level wind speed or direction—which will disrupt a hurricane's organization.

But Ike is expected to regain that strength—and then some—by early Monday morning. At that time the storm is expected to be over the central Bahamas with winds exceeding 132 miles (212 kilometers) an hour, making it a Category 4 hurricane.

Although Miami could be in Hurricane Ike's path by Tuesday morning, Feltgen noted that five-day forecasts for hurricane tracks can be off by as much as 300 miles (480 kilometers). Ike could just as easily curve south into the Gulf of Mexico or turn north and miss Florida altogether (regional map).

"By Monday or Tuesday of next week we'll have a much better idea of where it is going," he said.

Out of Africa

Ike is one of the so-called Cape Verde hurricanes, which tend to form at or around the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, September 10. Rolling off the west coast of Africa near the Cape Verde Islands, these storms begin their journeys across the Atlantic Ocean as "tropical waves"—clusters of windy thunderstorms.

Some of the worst hurricanes in history have been Cape Verde storms, including Hurricane Ivan, which began as a tropical depression near the Cape Verde Islands on September 2, 2004.

Ivan struck the Cayman Islands as a Category 5 hurricane—the most powerful kind—with winds of around 160 miles (257 kilometers) an hour, and later pummeled Pensacola, Florida.

Meanwhile, tropical storm Josephine—another Cape Verde storm—is far out in the Atlantic Ocean and moving west-northwest.

Josephine is not expected to be a threat to land anytime soon, if at all. But another tropical wave is about to roll off the coast of Africa and start its journey across the Atlantic, perhaps helping to fulfill forecasters' predictions this week of a hurricane-packed September.


Willie Drye is author of Storm of the Century: the Labor Day hurricane of 1935, published by National Geographic Books.


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