Gov. Mike Easley has declared a state of emergency in North Carolina as Tropical Storm Hanna churned away in the Atlantic Ocean with an eye on the state's coast.

Easley announced the declaration at a news conference Thursday. It's the first step the governor must take to seek federal funding to respond to a natural disaster.

Hanna is expected to hit North Carolina's southern coast on Friday.

Easley advised residents not only to be wary of Hanna's progress, but also to keep an eye on Hurricane Ike, which has strengthened to a Category 4 storm in the Atlantic.

The governor said people should be wary of the two storms for the next two weeks.

A hurricane watch remains in effect for parts of the North Carolina coast line even though Hanna is forecast to remain a tropical storm.

The hurricane watch was in effect Thursday evening from Edisto Beach, S.C., to Currituck Beach Light. In addition, a tropical storm warning was issued from the Savannah River northward to the North Carolina/Virginia border, including the Pamlico and Albemarle sounds.

The warning means tropical storm conditions are expected within within the next 24 hours.

At 5 p.m., the center of Hanna was located about 625 miles south-southeast of Wilmington and was moving northwest at about 14 mph Thursday evening. Maximum sustained winds were near 65 mph with higher gusts. The minimum wind for a Category 1 hurricane is 74 mph.

Governor Mike Easley's Emergency Bilingual Hotline will begin 24-hour operations at 10:00 a.m. Friday. The hotline will provide updated weather information, shelter locations, feeding sites, highway closings, etc. After the event, the hotline will serve as a referral line for people in need of help. Citizens may call toll-free 1-888-835-9966 or TTY 1-877-877-1765.

Easley continued to urge every citizen to have an emergency plan and emergency kit ready, stressing that those who have plans and supplies will fare better during any emergency than those who do not. Information about planning for emergencies in North Carolina is available in English at www.readync.org and in Spanish at www.listonc.org. Information for the deaf and hard of hearing also is available on www.readync.org.

(Copyright ©2014 WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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