Parts of Florida under hurricane warning as Isaias hits Bahamas
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — Forecasters declared a hurricane warning for parts of the Florida coast Friday as Hurricane Isaias drenched the Bahamas.
Officials in Florida said they were closing beaches, marinas and parks in Miami-Dade County beginning Friday night. Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the county had 20 evacuation centers on standby that could be set up with COVID-19 safety measures.
“We still don’t think there is a need to open shelters for this storm, but they are ready,” he said.
But authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of OcracokeIsland, which was slammed last year by Hurricane Dorian, starting Saturday evening. Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas evacuated people in Abaco who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian as well as people in the eastern end of Grand Bahama.
Isaias had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph Friday afternoon and was expected to strengthen during the night, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The storm was centered about 195 miles south-southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas and moving northwest at 15 mph.
The hurricane knocked shingles off roofs in the Bahamian island of San Salvador as it carved its way through an archipelago still recovering from Dorian’s devastation. Bahamas Power and Light Company cut off power in certain areas for safety.
The Hurricane Center said heavy rains associated with the storm “may begin to affect South and east-Central Florida beginning late Friday night, and the eastern Carolinas by early next week, potentially resulting in isolated flash and urban flooding, especially in low-lying and poorly drained areas.”
A hurricane warning was in effect from Boca Raton, north of Miami, extending about 150 miles north to the Volusia/ Brevard County Line. A hurricane watch was in effect from the Volusia/Brevard County Line to the Flagler/ Volusia County Line and from south of Boca Raton to Hallendale Beach.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state was “fully prepared for this and any future storm during this hurricane season,” with stockpiles of personal protective equipment, generators, bottled water and meals ready to be distributed.
But he urged people to have seven days of food, water and medication ready and said that state-run coronavirus testing sites in the areas where the storm could hit will be closed.
“Our sites, because they’re outdoors with tents, if it were to get 40-, 50-mileper-hour winds, it would just collapse,” he said. “Safety is paramount for that.”
Miami’s mayor said that social-distancing measures prompted by COVID-19 meant each person in shelters needed to have 40 square feet and no more cafeteriastyle dining would be allowed. People who are infected with the new coronavirus and need to evacuate will be isolated in classrooms separate them from the general population, Gimenez said.
A man carries gas containers ahead of Hurricane Isaias’ arrival Friday in the Bahamas.