September 2, 2008 12:00 a.m.
PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos -- Hurricane Hanna stalled for hours over the southeastern Bahamas on Monday, lashing the islands with fierce winds and rain. Forecasters said it could threaten the southeast United States by midweek.
Meanwhile, Tropical Storm Ike emerged as a new threat in the open sea, as the National Hurricane Center in Miami monitored three weaker weather systems moving westward across the Atlantic.
Hanna, with maximum sustained winds near 80 mph, lingered for much of the day near Mayaguana and nearby islands in the southeast Bahamas.
There were no immediate reports of injuries or major damage, but emergency teams were standing by and would begin assessing the situation once the storm has cleared, said Stephen Russell, interim director of the Bahamas National Emergency Management Agency.
"I'm quite certain there is going to be damage, particularly in Mayaguana," he said.
Hanna also was bringing strong winds, heavy rain and pounding surf to nearby islands, including Inagua and Crooked Island, and Turks and Caicos Islands to the south. It was expected to hit the southeastern U.S. later in the week.
"Right now, the uncertainty is such that it could hit anywhere from Miami to the outer banks of North Carolina," said Jessica Schauer Clark, a meteorologist at the U.S. National Hurricane Center. "So people really need to keep an eye on it."
Ike was approaching behind Hanna -- still about 1,400 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, but expected to become a hurricane in the next 36 hours as it too approaches the Bahamas.
NASA was not taking any chances -- it announced a delay of at least a day in the planned move of the space shuttle Atlantis from an assembly building at Florida's Kennedy Space Center to the launch pad. The move had been scheduled for Tuesday in preparation for an October mission to the Hubble Space Telescope.
Florida state officials also were keeping nervous watch on Hanna and the weather behind it, careful not to overextend the assistance it provides to other Gulf Coast states dealing with Gustav.
Hanna's center was near the Caicos Islands on Monday evening. It was nearly stationary.
"The storm's on top of us right now and it's blowing really hard," said Miguel Campbell, a mechanic with the Bahamas Electricity Corp. on Mayaguana, where some 300 people were hunkered down.
Hanna's winds and rain reached all the way to Haiti, where thousands remain homeless in the wake of Gustav, which was downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved over central Louisiana late Monday.
In Puerto Rico, authorities said one man from Colombia was killed and a woman from Brazil was missing after they were swept away in a river swollen with rain from Hanna. The two were students at the University of Puerto Rico on a trip to the island's east.
Hanna was expected to bring up to 12 inches of rain to the Turks chain, a popular tourist destination with about 22,000 people.
Copyright © 2008 Associated Press