Hurricane Isaias heads toward Florida’s coast as state battles coronavirus surge

Florida, which is continuing to battle a coronavirus surge, is now preparing for Hurricane Isaias – complicating efforts to contain the virus. The entire east coast of Florida is bracing for potential impacts: anything from strong winds to flooding rains and storm surge, CBS News’ Manuel Bojorquez reports. 

The hurricane is expected to approach Florida’s southeast coast on Saturday and Sunday, according to the National Hurricane Center.  

Florida this week saw record numbers of deaths due to COVID-19, reporting 257 new virus-related deaths on Friday – the fourth straight day it reported a record-high, single-day death toll.

Hurricane Isaias on Saturday had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph and was located about 50 miles south of Nassau, Bahamas, and about 20 miles east of Andros Island, an island in the Bahamas 

“On the forecast track, the center of Isaias will move near or over Andros Island in the Northwestern Bahamas this morning and continue to move near or over the rest of Northwestern Bahamas later today, and move near the east coast of the Florida peninsula tonight through Sunday,” the National Hurricane Center said early Saturday.

South Florida Prepares For Hurricane Isaias
Anthony Perrone pulls the hurricane shutters closed on his home on July 31, 2020 in Lake Worth, Florida.  Getty Images

Florida’s governor has declared a state of emergency – urging residents to have seven days worth of food, water and medicine ready – but also facial coverings and hand sanitizer as the potential disaster is merging with the COVID-19 crisis.

State-run testing sites in some areas are closed ahead of the storm until next week, hampering efforts to track the virus. 

Some Miami-Dade County hurricane shelters are on standby, with the potential to provide separate quarters for those who are currently infected. 

“We still don’t think there is a need to open shelters for this storm, but they are ready,” Miami Mayor Carlos Giménez said Friday. 

On Saturday, a hurricane warning was in effect on Florida’s east coast from Boca Raton, just north of Miami, to the Volusia-Brevard county line. A hurricane watch was in effect from Hallendale Beach to south of Boca Raton. Miami officials said they were closing beaches, parks and marinas. 

Governor Ron DeSantis said the state has a supply of personal protective gear at the ready, as well as generators for nursing homes at risk of losing power.

“Right now on hand they have 20 million masks, 22 million gloves, 10 million gowns, 1.6 million face shields, 270,000 coveralls and 20,000 thermometers,” he said.

A woman prepares sand bags for distribution to the residents of Palmetto Bay near Miami, on July 31, 2020 as Floridians prepare for Hurricane Isaias. CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

Isaias has already battered parts of the Caribbean, including the Bahamas and some of the islands that were devastated by Hurricane Dorian last year. It also hammered parts of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floodwaters that swept away one woman who remains missing.  

In the Dominican Republic, officials reported that a man died when he was electrocuted by a fallen electrical cable. Over 5,000 people were evacuated, and as of early Saturday, floodwaters had cut off over 130 communities. 

As the hurricane travels north, the governors of North Carolina and Virginia have already declared states of emergency – with North Carolina ordering evacuations from at least one barrier island.

“A hurricane during a pandemic is double trouble,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “But the state has been carefully preparing for this scenario, so that we can do our best to keep people safe from the weather as well as the virus.” 

The concern is not just along the coast but also areas inland that could see strong winds and flooding rains.

–Contributing: The Associated Press 

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