(Sept. 5, 1:30 p.m.) North Carolina sweet potato growers are bracing for Tropical Storm Hanna, which could become Hurricane Hanna by the time it reaches the state early Sept. 6.

As of mid-day Sept. 5, the eye of the storm was expected to pass over eastern North Carolina, a major sweet potato-growing region, said Ross Williams, assistant marketing director for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Sweet potato harvest started in the region in late August.

A possible silver lining to the news was the speed at which Hanna was moving, Williams said.

“They say it’s moving fast, so it may not dump as much rain as one of these slow-moving storms,” he said. “It could be 2-4 inches instead of 10.”

Smaller-volume North Carolina crops, including cucumbers, squash, tomatoes, green beans and apples, also are potentially in the storm’s way, Williams said.

Hanna is expected to rake much of the Eastern Seaboard Sept. 6-7, according to the National Weather Service.

Other high-volume late-summer and fall crops potentially in Hanna’s path are New York and Pennsylvania apples.

But both John Rice, president of Rice Fruit Co., Gardners, Pa., and Jim Allen, president of the Fishers-based New York Apple Association, were cautiously optimistic mid-day Sept. 5.

“The forecast now takes it offshore just at New Jersey,” Rice said. “If that’s the case, I wouldn’t expect very much damage.”

“I haven’t heard that we’re in the path,” Allen said.

Following closely on the heels of Hanna is Hurricane Ike, which, depending on the path it takes, could hit southern Florida Sept. 2-3.