Tropical storm Hanna spreads heavy rain across dry Southeast

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Tropical Storm Hanna poured up to 5 inches of rain in coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle on Saturday before moving inland and spreading rain across the Southeast.

A swimmer in Florida disappeared in rough surf and was presumed drowned.

The storm came ashore in Mobile County with 50 mph winds but by afternoon was downgraded to a tropical depression with winds dropping to 30 mph.

Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush declared emergencies in affected counties, but little damage or flooding was reported immediately.

The hardest hit area was Dauphin Island, Ala., where some roads were underwater and the causeway and bridge to the island were closed.

"We've got a good many people who stayed on the west end of the island and we had to evacuate some people from the west end," Dauphin Island police officer G. T. Taylor said.

Tallahassee, Fla., had some road flooding, while fallen tree limbs and power outages were reported in the Pensacola area. At one point, 20,000 homes and business were without power in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties, Gulf Power Co. officials reported.

Farmers in parched southeastern Alabama were disappointed when expected rainfall never came, as leftover bands of rain instead moved up the western half of the state.

'We need the rain'

Residents of Headland, Ala., which is about 15 inches short of average rainfall this year, said they were disappointed so little rain fell.

"I was hoping we'd get a good inch or two but we just haven't gotten any," said Harold Raley, who grows cotton and peanuts on a farm just south of Headland.

"We need the rain desperately," said William Birdsong, regional extension agronomist in southeast Alabama, where rainfall has been below normal for several years. He said some farmers "have gotten less than an inch since the first of July."

The National Weather Service discontinued tropical storm warnings, but flood watches remained in effect for southeastern Alabama, Florida's Panhandle, southwestern and south-central Georgia and parts of South Carolina.

By 4 p.m., Hanna was centered about 40 miles northeast of Mobile, Ala., and was moving northeast at 12 mph. It was expected to continue that course through Sunday and to continue weakening, the National Hurricane Center said.

Hanna was the eighth tropical storm of the 2002 Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1 and ends Nov. 30. It grew out of the season's ninth tropical depression. The season's only hurricane, Gustav, sped into Newfoundland early Thursday.

Elsewhere, the 10th tropical depression of the season formed near Trinidad in the Windward Islands, with peak wind near 30 mph, the hurricane center said. It was moving west at 23 mph, a track that would take it over Venezuela early today.

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