Isaias nears virus-hit Florida after lashing the Bahamas

National News

Daytona Beach, Fla., is crowded with beachgoers Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. Isaias is expected to return to hurricane strength as it nears Florida. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Early bands of heavy rain from Isaias lashed Florida’s east coast before dawn Sunday as authorities warily eyed the approaching storm, which threatened to snarl efforts to quell surging cases of the coronavirus across the region.

Isaias weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm late Saturday afternoon, but was still expected to bring heavy rain and flooding as it barrels toward Florida.

“Don’t be fooled by the downgrade,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned during a news conference on Saturday after the storm — pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs — spent hours roughing up the Bahamas.

Florida authorities closed beaches, parks and virus testing sites, lashing signs to palm trees so they wouldn’t blow away. The governor said the state is anticipating power outages and asked residents to have a week’s supply of water, food and medicine on hand. Officials wrestled with how to prepare shelters where people can seek refuge from the storm if necessary, while safely social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.

In Palm Beach County, about 150 people were in shelters, said emergency management spokeswoman Lisa De La Rionda. The county has a voluntary evacuation order for those living in mobile or manufactured homes, or those who feel their home can’t withstand winds.

“We don’t anticipate many more evacuations,” she said, adding that the evacuees are physically distant from each other and are wearing masks, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Isaias is piling another burden on communities already hard-hit by other storms and sickness.

The storm’s maximum sustained winds declined steadily throughout Saturday, and were at 65 mph (100 kph) by Sunday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said at 8 a.m. EDT. The storm’s center was located 40 miles (70 kilometers) east-southeast of West Palm Beach.

The center of the storm was forecast to approach the southeast coast of Florida early Sunday morning, then travel up the state’s east coast throughout the day. Little change was expected in the storm’s strength over the next few days, forecasters said.

Heavy rain, flooding and high winds could batter much of the East Coast this week as the system is forecast to track up or just off the Atlantic seaboard.

Despite the approaching storm, NASA says the return of two astronauts aboard a SpaceX capsule is still on track for Sunday afternoon. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are preparing to make the first splashdown return in 45 years, after two months docked at the International Space Station. They are aiming for the Gulf of Mexico just off the Florida Panhandle, and flight controllers are keeping close watch on the storm.

Isaias has already been destructive in the Caribbean: On Thursday, before it became a hurricane, it uprooted trees, destroyed crops and homes and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. One man died in the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floodwaters that swept away one woman, whose body was recovered Saturday.

Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and churned toward the Florida coast.

As the storm moves now toward the southeast coast of Florida, a tropical storm warning is in effect from Hallandale Beach, Florida, to South Santee River, South Carolina, and for Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. A storm surge watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach, and from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Coronavirus cases have surged in Florida in recent weeks, and the added menace of a storm ratcheted up the anxiety. State-run virus testing sites are closing in areas where the storm might hit because the sites are outdoor tents, which could topple in high winds.

Natalie Betancur, stocking up at a grocery in Palm Beach Gardens, said that the storm itself doesn’t cause her a great amount of concern.

“The hurricane is not that serious, but I feel that the public is really panicking because it’s a hurricane and we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” she said.

Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas opened shelters for people in Abaco island to help those who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian devastated the area, killing at least 70 people.

___

Coto reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Curt Anderson in St. Petersburg and Cody Jackson in Palm Beach County, Florida, contributed.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

World News

More World News
Overcast

Springfield

38°F Overcast Feels like 31°
Wind
10 mph N
Humidity
97%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy with occasional rain showers. Low 37F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.
37°F Cloudy with occasional rain showers. Low 37F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 40%.
Wind
7 mph ENE
Precip
40%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waxing Gibbous
Overcast

Branson

39°F Overcast Feels like 39°
Wind
0 mph
Humidity
100%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy skies. Low near 40F. Winds light and variable.
40°F Cloudy skies. Low near 40F. Winds light and variable.
Wind
3 mph NE
Precip
20%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waxing Gibbous
Overcast

Harrison

41°F Overcast Feels like 34°
Wind
12 mph SSE
Humidity
93%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy skies this evening. A few showers developing late. Low 39F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 30%.
39°F Cloudy skies this evening. A few showers developing late. Low 39F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 30%.
Wind
4 mph ENE
Precip
30%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waxing Gibbous
Overcast

Rolla

37°F Overcast Feels like 31°
Wind
8 mph N
Humidity
96%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy skies. Slight chance of a rain shower. Low near 35F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph.
35°F Cloudy skies. Slight chance of a rain shower. Low near 35F. Winds NE at 5 to 10 mph.
Wind
6 mph NE
Precip
20%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waxing Gibbous
Overcast

West Plains

43°F Overcast Feels like 40°
Wind
5 mph NE
Humidity
89%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Cloudy. Low around 40F. Winds light and variable.
40°F Cloudy. Low around 40F. Winds light and variable.
Wind
5 mph NNE
Precip
10%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waxing Gibbous

Trending Stories

Newsfeed Now

More Newsfeed Now
Downstream 300x100