RALEIGH, N.C. - The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season brought heavy rains but no major damage to the Southeastern U.S. on Friday, as it moved swiftly up the East Coast with flooding threats for as far north as New England.
After bringing rain, strong winds and even tornadoes to Florida on Thursday, Andrea was losing its tropical characteristics on Friday even as it still packed maximum sustained winds of 45 mph (72 kph).
Tropical storm warnings remained in effect for North Carolina and southern Virginia, the National Hurricane Center in Miami said at 5 p.m. EDT Friday. The storm's low-level center was losing definition but remained a threat to the East Coast while "evolving into a low-pressure center," said Darin Figurskey, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Raleigh.
The storm was centered in eastern North Carolina about 55 miles (88 kilometer) northeast of Raleigh and moving toward the Northeast at nearly 30 mph (48 kph).
Forecasters say Andrea could bring high winds, heavy rainfall, and localized coastal flooding through Saturday across the mid-Atlantic states and New England. Rainfall accumulations of 2 to 4 inches were possible along the Eastern Seaboard into coastal Maine, the hurricane center said. Winds near gale force were possible along the coast from Virginia to Canada through Sunday.
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 brought only a severe thunderstorm Friday. No injuries were reported, and there had been no reports of significant damage.
Mike Sprayberry of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management told the Weather Channel that there had been some flash flooding and local road closures in the state but that "so far we have been quite fortunate."
Thousands of power outages were also reported.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott had warned Thursday of the risk of tornadoes, and officials said that eight were confirmed across the state.
Forecasters didn't expect major problems, however, along the most vulnerable parts of the coast such as North Carolina's Outer Banks, a popular tourist destination.
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, N.C., 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.
Beach 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.