Strong winds from Hurricane Isaias were expected to start pounding parts of Florida’s east coast late Saturday, but the center appeared likely to remain just off shore during the weekend on a trajectory that would take it near Georgia and South Carolina as a powerful tropical storm.
Forecasters expected the center of the storm to move across the Straits of Florida — the open water southwest of the state where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Atlantic — Saturday night, triggering “hurricane conditions” along portions of the Sunshine State.
A hurricane warning was in effect along Florida’s coast from Boca Raton just north of Miami, about 150 miles north to the Volusia-Brevard county line. A hurricane watch was in effect from Hallendale Beach to south of Boca Raton.
The National Hurricane Center warned of a possible dangerous storm surge along the Florida east coast from Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach, where water could rise as much as four feet above ground level.
At 2 p.m. EST, the storm was centered about 140 miles southeast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, moving northwest at 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph.
Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 25 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 115 miles.
“On the forecast track, the center of Isaias will move over the Straits of Florida tonight, and approach the southeast coast of Florida early Sunday morning,” the hurricane center said. “Isaias is then forecast to move near or along the the east coast of the Florida peninsula Sunday and Sunday night.”
Little change in wind strength was expected through Sunday, with Isaias forecast to remain a hurricane through Monday.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in every coastal county of Florida’s Atlantic Coast, stretching from Miami-Dade to Nassau counties, on Friday in preparation for the storm.
The Florida governor 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.
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But he urged people to have seven days of food, water and medication on hand and said state-run coronavirus testing sites in the areas where the storm could hit would be closed.
Isaias to reach Carolinas on Monday likely as a tropical storm
In South Carolina, forecasters said Isaias would likely arrive as a tropical storm, with winds battering the state Monday and Monday night.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said he did not plan to call an mandatory evacuation ahead of the storm.
“We’ve been through these before, as you know, so we’re fully prepared,” McMaster said. “We’re hoping this storm will not hit us hard, if it hits at all.”
Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke Island, which was slammed by last year’s Hurricane Dorian, starting Saturday evening.
As hurricane Isaias gathered strength in the Caribbean, it snapped trees and knocked out power in the Bahamas on Saturday. Meanwhile, Miami officials closed beaches, marines and parks as Isaias churned its way through the Bahamas.
Contributing: Associated Press