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Hanna brings rain to Panhandle

©Associated Press
September 15, 2002

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Tropical Storm Hanna blew ashore Saturday on the Gulf Coast, pouring up to 4 inches of rain across coastal Alabama and the Florida Panhandle and knocking out power with winds up to 50 mph.

The storm quickly weakened as it spread inland into Georgia and was downgraded to a tropical depression, with sustained wind down to 30 mph by late afternoon.

Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman declared a state of emergency for Mobile and Baldwin counties. Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had declared a state of emergency in all counties west of the Apalachicola River in the Panhandle.

The storm's center crossed the western end of Dauphin Island, south of Mobile, in the morning, then hit the coast near the Alabama-Mississippi line, said National Weather Service meteorologist Randy McKee.

Power was out on Dauphin Island, some roads were underwater and the causeway and bridge leading 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. No injuries or major damage were reported.

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

Hanna brought much needed rain to parched areas of southeastern and south-central Alabama, but some of the storm's heaviest rainfall was reported in the Florida Panhandle. Tallahassee had road flooding, and fallen tree limbs and power outages were reported in the Pensacola area.

At one point, 20,000 homes and businesses were without power in the Panhandle, Gulf Power Co. reported.

Bridges linking the mainland to Perdido Key, west of Pensacola, and Santa Rosa Island, south of the city, were temporarily closed because of high wind, said Escambia County Emergency Management chief Michael Hardin.

By 5 p.m., Hanna was centered about 40 miles northeast of Mobile and was moving toward the northeast at about 12 mph. It was expected to continue that course through today and to continue weakening, the National Hurricane Center said.

Farmers, meanwhile, were hoping for rain.

"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."

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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