Aug. 1 (UPI) — Isaias lashed the Bahamas as a Category 1 hurricane, making landfall over Andros Island around midday Saturday, before it approaches the Florida coast this weekend and then eyes the southeastern U.S. coast early in the week.
Isaias is expected to turn to the north then the northeast this weekend, taking it on a path just east of the Florida coast before it is predicted to strike the Carolinas early next week.
Even though the Carolinas are predicted to take the brunt of Isaias, the exact impacts will depend on where the storm makes landfall and how much strength the storm is able to maintain into the beginning of the week. Isaias weakened to a tropical storm late Saturday afternoon after making landfall over the Bahamas, but is expected to restrengthen Saturday night.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued a state of emergency for portions of the state on Friday and urged residents to take the storm seriously.
Officials were already anticipating the storm’s arrival and taking steps to mitigate potential impacts late in the week. Mandatory evacuations were issued Friday on Ocracoke Island, one of the places hardest hit last year by Hurricane Dorian.
“A hurricane during a pandemic is double trouble,” Cooper tweeted on Friday. “But the state has been carefully preparing for this scenario.”
On Saturday, the storm had already begun to shown signs of weakening after it interacted with the Bahamas and battled against an area of moderate wind shear, or strong winds aloft, and dry air — both factors that can cause organized tropical systems to weaken. Despite the fact that the storm is churning over very warm waters of the Gulf Stream, sufficiently warm enough to allow the hurricane to maintain strength, Isaias weakened to a tropical storm late Saturday afternoon. However, it is expected to strengthen back to hurricane status Saturday night.
Isaias was moving to the northwest at 10 mph on Saturday with sustained winds at 70 mph, and it was expected to come within 25 miles of the Florida coast at its closest approach.
It then will set its sights on the Carolinas. AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller expects Isaias to make landfall near Wilmington, North Carolina, by Monday night.
Despite a forecast of lessening wind strength throughout the day on Monday, Isaias is still forecast to bring areas of flooding and strong winds to the region. Because of this, Isaias is forecast to be a 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact Scale for Hurricanes, a nuanced scale that AccuWeather introduced during the 2019 hurricane season to help better indicate the level of impacts a storm will bring.
Winds will pick up across South Carolina late Sunday night as the storm approaches the region, then will spread into eastern North Carolina throughout the day.
“Wind gusts of 40-60 mph will occur over the eastern Carolinas as Isaias moves through the area,” stated Miller.
Near and just east of where Isaias makes landfall wind gusts of 60-70 mph and an AccuWeather Local StormMax of 80 mph cannot be ruled out.
Tropical storm-force winds extended 115 miles outward from the storm’s center on Saturday as the storm was much more compact since its interactions with land in the northern Caribbean and the Bahamas. Hurricane-force wind gusts only reach about 25 miles from Isaias’ center.
Due to the small size of Isaias, which was previously a large and sprawling storm, the storm’s outer rainbands aren’t expected to arrive until late in the day on Sunday. The heaviest rain will overspread the area on Monday.
“Rainfall amounts of 2-4 inches will be common across the Bahamas and the east coast of Florida, stretching into the eastern Carolinas. Locally higher amounts of 4-8 inches along where the center of the storm tracks,” Miller added.