. hanna, ike: Ike zoomed to a ferocious Category 4 hurricane on Wednesday, with maximum sustained winds near 135 mph. The third major Atlantic hurricane this season is far out in the ocean, and it's too early to tell which areas might be threatened. Its center was about 610 miles northeast of the Leeward Islands, moving west-northwest at 17 mph. The storm was forecast to continue on its current track today before turning more to the west. Ike is behind Tropical Storm Hanna, which hit the Bahamas Wednesday with 65 mph winds and now looks to bypass Florida. Hanna was tentatively predicted to return to hurricane strength before hitting somewhere along the South Carolina and North Carolina coasts, probably Saturday. Officials held off ordering evacuations Wednesday but were considering turning major highways into one-way routes. Josephine, the tropical storm behind Ike, was weakening.
, gustav's wake: New Orleans reluctantly open its doors Wednesday, while President Bush returned to the site of one of the biggest failures of his presidency to show that the government had turned a corner since its bungled response to Katrina. Faced with traffic backups on paths into the city, Mayor Ray Nagin gave up checking ID badges and vehicle placards designed to keep residents out until early today. But once back at home, tens of thousands had no power and no idea when it might return. Outages were widespread across Louisiana, and thousands lost power in parts of Mississippi and Arkansas; in all more than a million homes and businesses were still without electricity, and officials said it could take as long as a month to fully restore power. Oil and natural gas production, virtually shut off in the Gulf of Mexico for the past several days, has resumed, though at very low levels.
. Haiti: Entering a flooded city on inflatable boats, U.N. peacekeepers found hundreds of hungry people stranded for two days on rooftops and upper floors Wednesday as the fetid carcasses of drowned farm animals bobbed in floodwaters. Haiti seems cursed this hurricane season, with its crops ruined and at least 126 people killed by three storms in less than three weeks. Even as Tropical Storm Hanna edged away to the north, forecasters warned that Hurricane Ike could hit the Western hemisphere's poorest country as a major storm next week. "If we keep going like this, the whole country is going to crash," moaned Mario Marcelus, who was trying to reach his family in Gonaives but didn't dare cross the floodwaters.
. get ready for more 4's and 5's, fsu prof says: A study finds the strongest of hurricanes and typhoons have become even stronger over the last 21/2 decades, adding grist to the debate over whether global warming contributes. "I think we do see a climate signal," said James Elsner, a Florida State University professor and lead author of a paper in today's Nature. With oceans expected to continue warming, "one would expect more 4's and 5's," he said — those with sustained winds of at least 131 mph. He and others examined satellite data from 1981 to 2006.