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Hanna shows Charlotte region mercy

Carolinas officials cancel planned trips to affected areas, saying there isn't much damage to assess.

By Greg Lacour
glacour@charlotteobserver.com

Tropical Storm Hanna soaked Eastern North Carolina on Saturday with up to 6 inches of rain but left unscathed all but the eastern fringes of the Charlotte region.

And even in those fringes, the rain that forecasters feared might cause flash flooding on saturated ground didn't cause much of a problem.

Up to 3 inches of rain fell overnight in far eastern Union County, and eastern Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties got a mild soaking before dawn Saturday.

But nothing fell west of Interstate 77, and Hanna bolted up the Atlantic coast into Virginia before noon, leaving behind a typically sunny, muggy late-summer day in Charlotte. Today is expected to be dry and sunny, with high temperatures around 90.

No injuries were reported in the Carolinas. Even officials planning to visit areas affected by Hanna decided it wasn't necessary: S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford canceled a planned trip to the coast to talk to emergency workers and assess damage. A spokesman said there just wasn't much damage to assess.

Hanna's center crossed the Virginia line about 11 a.m. The storm wasn't at hurricane strength, but it continued to pack maximum sustained winds of 50 mph. Forecasters issued a tropical storm warning as far north as Massachusetts, which Hanna is expected to reach today.

On Friday, the storm's projected track had shifted west, and officials feared that 2 or 3 inches of rain might overwhelm ground already saturated last week by the remnants of Tropical Storm Fay. But even the wind stayed to the east: Eastern Union County reported gusts up to about 20 mph, standard for mild thunderstorms.

Carolinians turned their eyes to Hanna's successor, Hurricane Ike, a dangerous storm churning through the Atlantic north of Puerto Rico on Saturday.

But even Ike appeared to be heading away from the Carolinas. The National Hurricane Center projected the hurricane to slice across Cuba on Monday and Tuesday before churning into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in North Carolina, Hanna pushed heavy rain inland to the Triangle and the rest of the Piedmont but spared the rest of the state major damage.

Officials reported scattered flooding in some parts of Wake, Durham and Orange counties. Rainfall at Raleigh-Durham International Airport totaled 3.33 inches from Friday afternoon to early Saturday morning, according to the National Weather Service office in Raleigh.

Wind gusts of near 50 mph were reported in the Raleigh area, and one of 45 mph was reported at Pope Air Force Base near Fayetteville.

The (Raleigh) News & Observer and The (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Sun News contributed.

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