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Region Girds for Hanna's Heavy Rain

Sandbags, Rescue Teams at the Ready as Tropical Storm Moves Ashore

Residents in the Carolinas are boarding up and stocking up ahead of Tropical Storm Hanna, expected to skirt the coast this weekend. Video by AP
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By Michael Laris and David A. Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Washington region yesterday braced for Tropical Storm Hanna, which was forecast to bring between three and seven inches of rain and winds of more than 30 mph, causing officials to open emergency shelters and unload hundreds of sandbags in areas likely to be hit hardest.

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Hanna was expected to make landfall late last night near the border between North Carolina and South Carolina and continue churning north-northeast, affecting much of the Atlantic seaboard. The brunt of the storm was expected to hit the Washington area overnight and through this afternoon. It was predicted to begin tapering off tonight.

In Virginia, shelters were prepared in the city of Chesapeake, James City County and other areas that could be most affected. The American Red Cross said it had 2,300 volunteers mobilized in the state, along with 9,600 cots and blankets, and similar preparations have been made in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, said Armond Mascelli, Red Cross vice president of disaster operations.

Southeastern Virginia, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore were likely to be hardest hit, authorities said. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) issued an expanded emergency declaration yesterday covering the entire state.

Some isolated areas could get as much as 10 inches of rain. Flooding "could be anywhere," said Edward Hopkins, chief of staff for Maryland's Emergency Management Agency.

Arcs of rain spinning out from Hanna passed through the Outer Banks and southeastern Virginia yesterday as the center of the storm moved northward. An Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter tracked the storm about 645 miles south of the District at 2 p.m. yesterday, and it was headed north at about 20 mph. Hanna is expected to pass about 60 miles east of the District, according to the National Weather Service.

By 10 last night, more than three-quarters of an inch of rain had fallen at Wallops Island, Va. A half-inch of rain fell in Richmond and at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk. The rain then subsided, tapering for a time into fog and mist.

In the District, streets glistened with moisture by 8 p.m., and at 10 p.m. heavy rain was reported at Reagan National Airport. By 11 p.m., more than a third of an inch had fallen there.

The Weather Service predicted that the storm's greatest impact here would come from midday today into tonight.

Some streams and creeks will rise to the level of their banks, or overflow, according to a late forecast.

Top sustained winds have approached 70 mph, with some higher gusts, making Hanna near hurricane strength, although it was expected to subside sharply once it hit land, according to the Weather Service.

The Weather Service warned of potential flash flooding in paved urban areas and streambeds. Workers filled and dropped 2,500 sandbags at historically vulnerable Metro stations, including the Cleveland Park, King Street and Largo Town Center stations.

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