RALEIGH, N.C. - Tropical Storm Ernesto made landfall last night near Long Beach, N.C., and forecasters are warning residents in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland of dangerous flooding and high winds today as the storm heads north, CNN reported in a story on its Web site this morning.
The National Hurricane Center warned the rain "could cause life-threatening flash floods and mudslides" in several states. Isolated tornadoes are possible over eastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia through Friday morning, the hurricane center said. Maximum sustained winds of near 50 mph have been reported.
"This storm is coming right up into Norfolk, Virginia, and into Richmond," said CNN meteorologist Chad Myers. "The whole area here is going to be inundated with floodwater -- 3 to 6 inches of rain already on the ground and -- in some areas almost 10 inches of rain."
At 8 a.m. ET this morning, Ernesto's center was just east-southeast of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and 100 miles southwest of Norfolk. It was moving toward the north at near 15 mph.
Ernesto came ashore with maximum sustained winds at 70 mph, just below the 74 mph that defines a Category 1 hurricane.
"A continued northward motion with a decrease in forward speed is expected during the next 24 hours," the hurricane center said. "This motion should bring the center farther inland over eastern North Carolina this morning and over eastern Virginia later today and tonight."
A tropical storm warning is in effect from north of Surf City, North Carolina, to Currituck Beach Light, including Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds.
Gale warnings were in effect for the Atlantic coast and the Chesapeake Bay north of the tropical storm warning area because of a strong pressure gradient north of Ernesto, the hurricane center said.
Tropical storm-force winds are extending 115 miles, mainly from the east of the storm's center, the center said.
Coastal storm surge flooding of 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels is possible along the coast of North Carolina and rainfall totals of 4 to 8 inches are expected over the Middle Atlantic states, including the central Appalachians, through Sunday, the center said. Isolated maximum storm totals of up to 12 inches are possible.
Despite those predictions, a story on the Charlotte Observer's Web site this morning said there had not yet been any reports of major damage received.
Along the coast of South Carolina last night, near Myrtle Beach, wind gusts were reported to be in the 40 mph range and boats in three area marinas showed no signs of distress, according to a story in the Charleston Post Courier
While Ernesto weakened to a Tropical Storm in the Atlantic, Hurricane John was gaining strength in the Pacific Ocean and had reached Category 3 status as of this morning, CNN reported in a separate a story.
The storm, which is expected to make landfall in Baja California, Mexico sometime this evening was said to be producing maximum sustained winds of 115 mph and is threatening the popular Cabo San Lucas area, where evacuations are taking place.
Coastal storm surge flooding of up to 5 feet above normal tides can be expected near the path of the hurricane's center.
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