What to Know
- Isaias was upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane late Thursday night
- South Florida is under a tropical storm watch as the hurricane is expected to near the U.S. East Coast this weekend
- The Bahamas is under a hurricane warning
Isaias strengthened into a hurricane late Thursday, triggering several storm watches and warnings as it moved towards the Bahamas and South Florida.
By late Thursday, Isaias had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 kph), making it a Category 1 hurricane. It was centered about 70 miles (110 kilometers) east-southeast of Great Inagua Island in the southeastern Bahamas late Thursday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It was moving northwest at 18 mph (30 kph), and its center was forecast to move near the southeastern Bahamas during the night, be near the central Bahamas late Friday and move near or over the northwest Bahamas and near South Florida on Saturday.
Lake Okeechobee and the southeastern coast of Florida, from Ocean Reef to Sebastian Inlet, which includes Miami-Dade and Broward counties, are under a tropical storm watch. Tropical storm conditions, such as heavy rains and isolated flooding, are possible over the weekend.
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Two to four inches of rain is expected from Friday night through Monday in South Florida into east-Central Florida.
A hurricane warning was issued for the Bahamas, including Andros Island, New Providence, Eleuthera, Abacos Islands, Berry Islands, Grand Bahamas Island and Bimini.
Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 240 miles from the center.
On Thursday, Tropical Storm Isaias knocked out power and caused flooding and small landslides across Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
Government workers in the Dominican Republic used loudspeakers to urge people to evacuate ahead of the worst of the storm, while police arrested a handful of surfers in the capital of Santo Domingo accused of violating government storm warnings.
Especially hard hit was Puerto Rico's southern region, which still shakes daily from aftershocks. Heavy rains inundated neighborhoods weakened by the tremors, causing some recently abandoned homes to collapse.
“Everyone is in a constant state of emergency,” said Marieli Grant with Mercy Corps.
The storm knocked out power to more than 400,000 clients across Puerto Rico, including hospitals that switched to generators, and left some 150,000 customers without water. Crews opened the gates of one dam that last month had such a low water level that officials cut service every other day for some 140,000 customers. Outages also were reported in the neighboring U.S. Virgin Islands.
Other damage including 14% of cell towers down was reported elsewhere across Puerto Rico, where tens of thousands of people still use tarps as roofs over homes damaged by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
“I didn't think it was going to be this strong,” said José Pagán, a 22-year-old who lives in the eastern mountain town of Juncos and whose home was slightly flooded. “It's a rather difficult experience because it reminds us of Maria.”
More than 50 people sought shelter in Puerto Rico, said Gov. Wanda Vázquez, who urged those living near swollen rivers to find refuge. But many remained wary of shelter given a spike in COVID-19 cases on the island.
In the western town of Mayaguez, Alan Rivera, a 40-year-old engineer, told the AP that the street in front of his house turned into a flowing river — something that didn't even happen during Hurricane Maria. He and his family planned to temporarily move in with his parents despite concerns about the coronavirus.
“We have to take the risk,” he said. “There's no other alternative.”
A tropical storm warning remains in effect for the southern and northern coastlines of the Dominican Republic, the north coast of Haiti, Turks and Caicos Islands, and both southeastern and central Bahamas.
Rainfall is expected to drop anywhere between four to eight inches of water in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and northern Haiti, with isolated maximum totals of 12 inches. The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos should expect four to eight inches.
U.S. President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration in Puerto Rico as a result of the storm.
Isaias is the earliest ninth Atlantic named storm to form, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. The previous record was Irene on August 7, 2005, Klotzbach tweeted.
So far this year, Cristobal, Danielle, Edouard, Fay, Gert and Hanna have also been the earliest named Atlantic storms for their alphabetic order.