Hurricane Hanna is the eighth tropical cyclone and fourth hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. It formed east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands on August 28. At least 532 deaths have been reported, mostly due to flooding in the northern part of Haiti, making it the deadliest tropical cyclone in the Atlantic basin since Hurricane Stan in 2005. It was downgraded to a tropical storm status on Wednesday September 3, and is currently expected to move towards the make a landfall near the South Carolina–North Carolina border early Saturday, September 6, 2008.
During late August, 2008, a tropical wave emerged off the coast of Africa and tracked westward across the Atlantic Ocean. After several days, an associated area of low pressure gained deep convection and organization. On August 28, while to the east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands, the low formed into Tropical Depression Eight. Later that day, it attained tropical storm status, and as such was named Hanna by the National Hurricane Center. At the time, the low-level center of circulation was partially exposed on the western edge of the convection, indicating westerly wind shear. Tracking westward primarily under the steering current of a large ridge to the north, the convective pattern began to redevelop late on August 28. Since forecast, models predicted the storm would weaken and move southwestward due to outflow associated with nearby Hurricane Gustav. Despite this, the storm began entering a favorable environment, and was forecast to intensify. An upper-level low that had been producing wind shear moved away from the system, though light shear continued. At the same time, the low-level center once again became separated from the convection, which was primarily confined to a cyclonic banding feature in the eastern half of the circulation. It remained weak as it moved erratically westward while east of the Bahamas on August 30. Due to the influence of Hurricane Gustav’s large circulation, Hanna suddenly took a sharp southerly turn and slowed down to drift while located to the north of the Turks and Caicos Islands. On September 1, as Hanna drifted to the south-southwest, convection increased and the storm began to intensify. Later that day around 1:30pm EDT, an Air Force Reconnaissance Aircraft found winds within Hanna supportive of hurricane development intensifying, and presently the National Hurricane Center upgraded Hanna to a hurricane. Early on September 2, strong wind shear in association with Hurricane Gustav began to affect Hanna and the storm was downgraded to a tropical storm.
Turks and Caicos Islands
On September 1 widespread rain and strong winds were reported in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands as a result of Hanna. No major damage or fatalities were reported in either area. Hanna returned to the area and in the Turks and Caicos, floods hit low-lying neighborhoods throughout the archipelago. The popular tourist destination of Providenciales saw considerable flooding in neighborhoods such as Kew Town, Five Cays and the Blue Hills. Also a medical clinic on the Grand Turk island suffered roof damage.
Haiti, already rain-saturated by Fay and Gustav, was hit hard by flooding and mudslides from several days of heavy rainfall, particularly in the city of Gonaïves which suffered catastrophic damage in 2004 from Hurricane Jeanne. Nearly the entire city was flooded with water as high as 2 meters (6.6 feet) deep, and some had to be rescued on their roofs. In Les Cayes, a hospital had to be evacuated as it was swamped by flood water. At least 5,000 people there were moved to public shelters due to the flooding.The United Nations have ordered relief convoys to the hard-hit region, including rafts to help rescue victims.As of late on September 4, Haiti’s government said the death toll from Tropical Storm Hanna has increased to at least 529, with most of the deaths coming in the flooded port city of Gonaïves, where the destruction is described as “catastrophic” and 495 bodies were discovered as of late on September 5. Haitian authorities said the tally could grow once officials are able to make their way through Gonaïves. “The assessment is only partial, because it is impossible to enter the city for the moment”, Gonaïves Mayor Stephen Moise said. In the aftermath of Hanna at least 48,000 from the Gonaïves areas have gone to shelters. Some people sleep on the roofs of their house protecting them from looters. The catastrophe has left many homeless begging for food and clothes. Others have left for the mountains hoping to wait out the next storms on the horizon People are starting to get frustrated with the assistance that has come. Very little of aid has come from international organizations. Bridges north and south of Gonaïves collapsed and the roads are swampy lakes and it is extremely difficult to get to the city by road.
While in the Atlantic near the Bahamas, high surf and rip currents were produced by Hanna off the Southeast US coast. A 14-year-old boy drowned at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park near Hollywood, Florida as a result of the rip currents brought up by the distant Hanna. Two more deaths were reported off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida as they drowned in the high seas. Because of the threat of a medium-term impact on the state and anticipated track of the storm, the governors of Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland declared a state of emergency for their states and commonwealth. Washington, D.C., along with numerous other state and municipalities activated their Emergency Operations Centers in preparation for the storm. Hanna may have also spawned tornado(s) near Greenville, North Carolina and Allentown, PA.
Ironically, after landfall in the Carolinas, Hanna was at its strongest when its center was just south of New York City at 11 pm EDT on September 6th, when 60 mph (95 km/h) winds were recorded at the center, however, because most winds past the center were more gusty than sustained, most damage in the area was related to the rain.
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