Florida battened down on Saturday as Tropical Storm Isaias barreled toward the state before its expected move up the U.S. East Coast.
With maximum sustained winds of 70 mph the storm was downgraded form a hurricane Saturday afternoon. It was forecast to move over the Straits of Florida Saturday night before approaching the southeast coast of Florida early Sunday.
Isaias was forecast to “re-strengthen to a hurricane overnight,” the National Hurricane Center said in an advisory.
Hurricane warnings remained in effect for Boca Raton, Florida and Northwestern Bahamas. Isaias was expected to remain at hurricane strength Monday, the center said.
Florida is already fighting the coronavirus pandemic and one county official in South Florida said Friday it was hard to imagine that they were now dealing with a storm.
“It’s just kind of been the way 2020’s going so far, but we roll with it, right?” Howard Tipton, administrator for St. Lucie County, which is north of Palm Beach County, said at a news conference. “We don’t get to determine the cards that we’re dealt.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday that a request he sent to President Donald Trump for a federal disaster declaration was approved, and “the state of Florida is fully prepared.”
DeSantis, who has urged residents to have seven days’ worth of food, water and medicine on hand ahead of the storm, said that while he doesn’t “anticipate hospitals needing to evacuate patients,” one small hospital in Brevard County moved its COVID-19 patients to another location.
NASA on Saturday said that despite the weather “conditions are ‘Go'” for the scheduled return Sunday afternoon of astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, who departed for the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s Endeavour spacecraft in late May.
NASA said in a statement that they could splash down at a primary landing site off the coast of Pensacola or at an alternate site off of Panama City. Both are in the Gulf of Mexico.
Miami-Dade County meanwhile ordered parks, beaches, marinas and golf courses closed through at least Saturday.
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Palm Beach County, which was under an earlier hurricane warning, said it was opening four shelters and one for animals Saturday morning. The shelters are for residents of mobile or manufactured homes and other housing deemed substandard.
Florida Power & Light Company said it activated its emergency response plan and recruited around 2,000 people from 10 states to help restore power. The utility expects a large part of its coverage area to feel the storm’s effects.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez on Saturday morning told residents to stay home and that high winds and flooding were expected in some areas of South Florida by mid-afternoon.
Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Oracoke Island, which was slammed by last year’s Hurricane Dorian, as well as that of Holden Beach, and Ocean Isle Beach. Cape Lookout National Seashore said it would close at 5 p.m.
The Bahamas evacuated people in Abaco, who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian, and those on the eastern end of Grand Bahama. The storm knocked shingles off roofs and tumbled trees as it carved its way through the archipelago.
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Even if it does not make landfall, the storm is relatively large and its effects could extend beyond its center.
On Thursday, while still a tropical storm, Isaias toppled trees, destroyed crops and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where hundreds of thousands of people were left without power and water.
Officials reported that a man died in the Dominican Republic when he was electrocuted by a fallen electrical cable. More than 5,000 people were evacuated, and more than 130 communities remained cut off by floodwaters.
The Associated Press and Dennis Romero contributed.