Hurricane Isaias is expected to bring hurricane conditions along portions of Florida’s east coast late Saturday afternoon and Sunday with strong winds, heavy rains and possible flooding in low lying areas, the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 p.m. update Friday.
The latest track brought the Category 1 Isaias closer to land but still offshore as it barrels toward West Palm Beach, before making a hugging the Florida’s east coast and making a slight northwesterly turn and going further off coast after passing Melbourne.
The 5 p.m. update brought a slew of new watches and warnings for Central Florida: a hurricane warning for Brevard County, a hurricane watch for coastal Volusia County, a tropical storm warning for Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties and a tropical storm watch for coastal Flagler and inland Volusia counties.
Fox 35 meteorologist Glenn Richards said the storm could make landfall in Indian River or Fort Pierce before going back off shore.
“If you live Brevard, Indian River and Volusia counties, do take this storm seriously,” he said.
Elsewhere in the state, a hurricane warning is in effect for Boca Raton to the Volusia/Brevard line and a hurricane watch is in effect for Boca Raton to Hallendale Beach. There’s also a storm surge watch from Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Verde Beach.
Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for every east coast county from Miami-Dade to Nassau in an executive order Friday morning during a press conference. DeSantis also said the has 50 generators, the most its ever had on hand, for emergency managers to distribute; ensuring all nursing homes and long-term care facilities will be taken care of to avoid power loss like the deadly situation created by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
“The most recent forecast, it brings that eye closer to the coast so we just have to be vigilant,” DeSantis said. “So please heed the warnings of your local officials.”
DeSantis will be traveling to Tampa later Friday to meet with President Donald Trump discuss matters on both Isaias and COVID-19.
No evacuations have been declared at this time.
Isaias continued to show signs of stronger organization at its core as the storm moved into the Central Bahamas Friday afternoon, according to the NHC’s 5 p.m. update.
Isaias was officially designated as a Category 1 storm by the National Hurricane Center after a special midnight bulletin, but is expected to drop down to a tropical storm after skirting past the Palm Coast on Sunday.
While the storm’s center is not predicted to make a Florida landfall, Isaias’ hurricane-force winds extend 35 miles from its core, and its tropical-storm-force winds can reach up to 175 miles.
What that means for coastal residents is that they need to prepare, said FOX 35 meteorologist Jayme King.
Coastal communities are in the warning area are expected to feel tropical storm force conditions, and those in the hurricane watch area may encounter hurricane-force winds and heavy rain, according to the NHC.
“While we are in the easterly cone of uncertainty my message is watch for wobbling to west. That will change everything,” King said. “It’s passing over the Bahamas (Friday night) and will pass 50 miles east of us Sunday during the day, meaning we could see gusts from 35 to 65 mph along the coast. Rainfall will stack along coast 2 to 4 inches.”
A tropical storm warning remains in effect for Ocean Reef northward to the Sebastian inlet as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands. Much of the Bahamas were under a hurricane warning.
The NHC forecast 2 to 4 inches of rain with some pockets of up to 6 inches in South Florida and east-Central Florida on Saturday and Sunday that could result in flash flooding in urban areas with poor drainage. Surf conditions are expected to grow by Saturday with dangerous rip conditions.
Isaias’ quick tropical development
Forecasters had originally hoped that Isaias would lose strength when its low center interacted with the Dominican Republic mountain range, but the storm missed the mountains and reemerged into warm waters along with very little wind sheer allowing its intensity to jump in strength; pumping up Isaias into hurricane level strength, King said.
The midnight shift from tropical storm to hurricane came after an Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunter determined winds were strong enough for Isaias to be the second named hurricane of the season, the NHC said. It jumped from tropical-storm strength 60 mph sustained winds in its 11 p.m. update to 80 mph sustained winds with the notification one hour later.
“Everyone needs to be mindful of what could happen and coastal residents need to be prepared for a hurricane,” King said. “We didn’t have a lot of intel coming up to this point, but now we have a lot to consider without the luxury of time.”
What’s happening in Florida
Orange County officials are monitoring the storm and have extended the free, self-serve sandbag handouts until Saturday, pending weather. Residents are asked to bring their own shovels and wear masks. Anyone who lives in the county, including the cities, can get the sandbags. For a list of locations, visit ocfl.net/Storm.
The state division of emergency management also has a ton of PPE supplies stockpiled in the event of emergency including 20 million masks, DeSantis said in the Friday press conference.
Attorney General Ashley Moody expanded Florida’s Price Gouging Hotline Friday to receive reports of extreme price increases on essential commodities needed to prepare for Hurricane Isaias.
During a storm-related declared state of emergency, state law prohibits excessive increases in the price of essential commodities, such as food, water, hotel rooms, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment, needed as a direct result of the event. Anyone who suspects price gouging should report it to the Attorney General’s Office by using the NO SCAM app or by calling 1(866) 9NO-SCAM. The Attorney General’s NO SCAM app can be downloaded for free through Apple and Android stores by searching NO SCAM.
Isaias’ path through the Caribbean and other Atlantic storms
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.
The Puerto Rico National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floodwaters, which swept away one woman who remains missing.
Stephen Russell, director of the Bahamas’ Emergency Management Agency, said there were no plans to evacuate people, but he urged those living in low-lying areas to seek shelter.
Meanwhile, there are two more systems being looked at by the National Hurricane Center including one that became a tropical depression. If either one does become a named storm, it would be Tropical Storm Josephine.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.