A drenching tropical storm Andrea barrels up eastern seaboard (+video)

The tropical storm, after soaking parts of Florida and Georgia Thursday, was set to spend Friday in North Carolina and points north. Andrea's winds have abated to 45 m.p.h., but flooding, and perhaps tornadoes, remain of concern.

By , Staff writer

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    Surfers at Virginia Beach make their way through the early morning fog to catch some of the surf created by tropical storm Andrea in Virginia Beach, Va., Friday.
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Tropical-storm warnings remain in effect from South Carolina's central coast to the southern tip of Chesapeake Bay as tropical storm Andrea works its way up the US East Coast.

At 11 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time the storm was moving into North Carolina. Andrea is packing maximum sustained winds of 45 miles per hour, with tropical-storm-force winds extending up to 160 miles east of the center, according to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Wind speeds in a tropical storm range from 39 m.p.h. to 73 m.p.h. With higher wind speeds, a tropical storm becomes a hurricane.

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Although the storm is centered about 55 miles south southwest of Fayetteville, N.C., it is dumping rain from the Carolinas to southern Maine and as far inland as Morgantown, W.Va.

After spinning up in the Gulf of Mexico this week, Andrea's center made landfall at about 5:40 p.m. EDT Thursday, crossing Florida's west cost in the "big bend" section, which joins the peninsula to the panhandle. At landfall, the storm's maximum sustained winds reached 65 m.p.h. But Andrea weakened and by 11 p.m., maximum sustained winds had dropped to 45 m.p.h.

During its encounter with Florida, Andrea triggered at least seven tornadoes – six in Florida and one in North Carolina, according to preliminary reports filed with the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla.

Overnight, the storm brought 5 to 6 inches of rain to parts of Georgia, prompting flash-flood warnings. There, Andrea's rain fell on top of ground already saturated by other recent storms, forecasters say.

The storm also has triggered numerous power outages. But so far damage has been light, and no fatalities have been attributed to Andrea.

Flash flood and tornado watches, along with flood warnings, have been posted for parts of North Carolina and Virginia, with flood watches extending up the coast as far as southeastern Maine.

By midnight, forecasters say, Andrea is expected to lose its tropical-storm status. At that point, it becomes more like a powerful coastal nor'easter, still capable of dumping a lot of water and generating 1- to 2-foot storm surges along the coasts of North Carolina and southeastern Virginia.

Over the next 24 hours, Andrea will dump an average of at least to 2 to 4 inches of rain along a path that stretches from northern North Carolina up into most of Massachusetts, according to forecasters at the Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Md. Within that broad swath, the heaviest rain is expected to fall on parts of Virginia, New Jersey, as well as New York's Long Island, and much of southern New England. These areas could receive at least 3 to 4 inches of rain.

The heavy rain isn't without benefits. Since the turn of the year, a large swath territory covering parts of the Southeast and central Atlantic region has slowly been emerging from drought. Andrea's rain could help erase the remaining areas of abnormally dry ground in some of the those states, as well as unusually dry areas in New England.

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