Weakened Andrea dumps rain on Southeast

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

The first named storm of the Atlantic season was losing its tropical characteristics, but tropical storm warnings remained in effect for the southern mid-Atlantic coast.

The National Hurricane Center in Miami said at 5 p.m. EDT Friday that the storm’s low-level center was losing definition but remained a threat to the East Coast.

The storm was centered in eastern North Carolina about 55 miles northeast of Raleigh and moving toward the Northeast at nearly 30 mph. It had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph.

Tropical storm warnings remained in effect for coastal communities in North Carolina and southern Virginia. Forecasters said Andrea could still bring high winds, heavy rainfall and localized coastal flooding through Saturday across the mid-Atlantic states and New England.

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 home game Friday night.

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 a second tractor-trailer, authorities said.

The National Weather Service issued flood watches across much of both Carolinas, 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 confirmed there were eight 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.

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, said David Tweedie, 41, of Ocrakoke.

“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.