Weakened tropical storm dumps rain on Southeast

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — After bringing rains, heavy winds and even tornadoes to parts of Florida, Tropical Storm Andrea moved quickly up the Southeastern coast on Friday, leaving parts of Georgia and the Carolinas waterlogged while sparing the region any serious damage.

The first named storm of the Atlantic season lost some intensity after making landfall Thursday in Florida and its winds were down to 45 mph (75 kph) Friday afternoon. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm was losing its tropical characteristics but that tropical storm conditions were still spreading northeastward along the East Coast, with strong winds possible as far north as Canada by Sunday.

As of 2 p.m. EDT Friday, the storm was 70 miles (113 kilometers) northwest of Wilmington, N.C. and moving northeast at 28 mph (45 kph).

The storm is forecast to move out of North Carolina on Friday night and north up along the Delmarva peninsula and into New England. A tropical storm warning for the Atlantic Coast on Friday extended from Little River inlet in South Carolina to the lower Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. The storm was expected to bring 2 to 4 inches of rain to the Eastern Seaboard as well as storm surge-related flooding.

Cities in the Mid-Atlantic region and Northeast were bracing for the storm. New York City activated its flash flooding plan, while a flash flood watch was issued for southeastern Pennsylvania. The rainy weather washed out events such as NASCAR’s Sprint Cup qualifying and the Washington National’s Friday night home game.

Authorities in Virginia blamed heavy rain from the storm’s outer bands for a fatal accident on Interstate 77 in the state’s western mountains. William Petty, 57, of Lexington, S.C., died when a car in which he was a passenger hydroplaned while passing a tractor-trailer. He survived the crash, only to be killed moments later when the car was struck by second tractor-trailer, authorities said.

During the morning rush hour in Charleston, S.C., there was little evidence that the center of the storm was passing to the northwest beyond a few downed tree branches, gusty winds and some puddles in the street. The sun occasionally peeked through.

Derrec Becker with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division said the storm has brought only a severe thunderstorm. No injuries were reported, and there had been no reports of significant damage.

The storm was expected to be centered over North Carolina by midday.

The National Weather Service issued flood watches across much of both states, was well as tornado and flash flood watches in several counties.

Thousands of power outages were also reported.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott had warned of the risk of tornadoes, and officials said that eight were confirmed across the state. Slower-moving storms can pose a greater flood risk because they have more time to linger and dump rain, though Andrea still could bring as much as 6 inches to parts of the Carolinas.

Forecasters didn’t expect major problems, however, along the most vulnerable parts of the coast such as the Outer Banks, a popular tourist destination.

John Elardo, a meteorologist with the weather service in Newport, N.C., said Thursday that the storm would push major waves to the north and northeast, away from the Outer Banks. Storms in the fall and winter wore away dunes and washed out portions of N.C. Highway 12, the only road connecting the barrier island to the mainland of North Carolina.

Andrea could bring up to a foot of flooding on the sound side of the Outer Banks, Elardo said.

David Tweedie, 41, of Ocracoke, said an early morning burst of rain and the forecast of another three hours or so of rain and wind on the Outer Banks island has done little to alter the day’s routine for the roughly 1,000 year-round residents.

The Friday fish fry that kicks off the island’s annual folk music and arts festival was moved indoors to the island’s only public school, and a musical performance of the three-day event was shifted to the community center. But the tropical system was otherwise forcing no changes to the Ocrafolk Festival that normally draws more than 2,000 visitors, Tweedie said.

“The weather is looking pretty good for blowing out and for us having a good day tomorrow,” said Tweedie, the festival coordinator.

Authorities in coastal Bertie County said a school bus with 32 elementary students on board slid off the road and into a ditch about 8 a.m. No injuries were reported.

A Coast Guard cutter and HC-130 Hercules airplane were called to rescue four adults aboard a 35-foot sailboat about 65 miles off Charleston, S.C. The sailboat’s engine was disabled during the storm and left rocking in 15-foot seas and 35-mph winds.

Vacationers were keeping a close eye on the storm.

Tan Sanders, 20, of Goldsboro, brought his surfboard, hoping for bigger-than-usual waves during his vacation at North Myrtle Beach, S.C. The newcomer to surfing got more than he wanted.

“I went out for probably about 20 or 30 minutes, but it was beating me to death so we come back in,” Sanders said.

But it wasn’t long before the heavy weather was gone.

“We did most of what we wanted to, other than working around the rain,” Sanders said. “It was definitely blowing some sand for a little while, but after about two o’clock or three o’clock it got right back to normal with people going back out on the beach, taking their chairs and stuff.”

Farther east in Chapel Hill, heavy rains forced the forced the postponement of Friday’s NCAA super regional baseball series opener between No. 1 seeded North Carolina and South Carolina until Saturday. A second game between N.C. State and Rice in Raleigh was also postponed.

In Cuba, days of torrential rains associated with Andrea caused rivers to jump their banks in the western province of Pinar del Rio. More than 3,300 people evacuated endangered homes, and nearly 1,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of croplands suffered “serious damage,” state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde said Friday. Rain was forecast to continue falling on already waterlogged areas through Saturday.

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Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Aaron Beard in Raleigh, N.C.; Bruce Smith in Charleston, S.C.; Jack Jones in Columbia, S.C.; Jennifer Kay in Miami; Gary Fineout and Brent Kallestad in Tallahassee, Fla.; and Peter Orsi in Havana.

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