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Weakened Gaston to bring North Carolina wind, rain

07:30 AM EDT on Monday, August 30, 2004

Associated Press

Tropical Storm Gaston weakened into a tropical depression Sunday but was still expected to bring heavy rains and possible flooding to North Carolina.

Gaston's center was expected to move into North Carolina overnight and continue north through Fayetteville and Raleigh by Monday morning, said Mike Moneypenny, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Raleigh.

"Most of the precipitation is wrapped around the center of the system," he said. Areas within about 30 miles of the center could see downpours totalling about 6 inches of rain, but most areas could expect between 1 and 4 inches.

Winds of 15 to 25 mph were expected from the weakening storm system Sunday evening though midday Monday, with gusts to 30 to 35 mph.

A reported tornado snapped pine trees and blew off some roofs in Scotland County and another damaged to several homes and blew down trees in Hoke County near Raeford on Sunday, the weather service said.

Residents of 15 coastal and nearby counties as far north as Tyrrell and Dare were urged to watch for flooding late Sunday and Monday.

Gov. Mike Easley activated 30 National Guard soldiers, equipping them with vehicles that can travel flooded roads.

Easley also warned residents to prepare for flash flooding in low-lying areas of central and eastern North Carolina.

"I urge citizens to pay close attention to local weather forecasts and take precautions necessary to protect their families," Easley said.

Gaston sloshed ashore in South Carolina on Sunday with near hurricane-force wind and knocked out power to thousands of people.

As much as eight inches of rain had fallen along some parts of the coast by midday, and a flash flood watch was in effect.

Hundreds of residents were urged to evacuate ahead of the storm.

Meanwhile, the eighth named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season popped to life Sunday afternoon. Tropical Storm Hermine formed off the coast of the Carolinas about 370 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., but was expected to stay away from the East Coast. The National Hurricane Center in Miami said the system should weaken significantly in 48 hours.

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