Florida prepares for Hurricane Isaias
Hurricane Isaias, a Category 1 storm, delivered torrential rains and high winds to the Bahamas Friday before taking aim at eastern Florida, according to forecasters.As of 11 p.m. ET, Isaias remains a Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds of 80 mph. It is moving northwest at 15 mph and the center is currently about 135 miles south-southeast of Nassau, Bahamas.Bands of heavy and tropical storm conditions are spreading over the central Bahamas. The latest forecast track shifted slightly westward, closer to the Florida coast, but that also means a slightly weaker storm. Some strengthening is still possible before Isaias begins to impact South Florida tomorrow, however the peak intensity has been lowered from earlier today.A hurricane warning is now in effect for parts of the east coast of Florida, from Boca Raton to the Volusia/Brevard County line.
The National Hurricane Center said that the Bahamas would experience wind gusts up to 75 miles per hour and heavy squalls throughout the day. Four to eight inches of rain is expected to fall in the Bahamas, according to the NHC.
„These rainfall amounts will lead to life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides, as well as river flooding,” the NHC said in an earlier report.
Forecasters predict the storm will travel northwest and arrive in southeast Florida on Saturday and Sunday.
Parts of the state could see two to four inches of rain with isolated maximum totals of six inches, according to the current forecast.
„These rainfall amounts could result in isolated flash and urban flooding, especially in low-lying and poorly drained areas,” the NHC said.
The NHC added that its current models show Isaias strengthening, but the forecast of a possible Category 2 storm was removed. The NHC forecast cone has shifted slightly west, indicating the storm could affect parts of the Carolinas Sunday night into Monday.
The latest forecast track also accounts for some type of transition into a post-tropical or extra-tropical low as it travels up the East Coast.
Florida officials are on high alert and watching the storm closely. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Friday that he has declared a state of emergency in every coastal county on the east side of the state from Miami-Dade to Nassau Counties.
The governor said the state is preparing to create shelters and will activate them depending on the storm’s path. COVID-19 testing sites that are in those counties would be closed, but the governor noted that the ones located on the west side of the state will remain open.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also declared a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Isaias, which is expected to impact parts of coastal Virginia starting on Monday.
„Hurricane Isaias is a serious storm, and current predictions indicate that it may impact parts of Virginia as early as this weekend,” said Northam. „This state of emergency will ensure localities and communities have the assistance they need to protect the safety of Virginians, particularly as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis. I encourage Virginians to take all necessary precautions, monitor local weather forecasts, and stay alert.”
NASA and SpaceX said Friday they decided to move forward with plans to bring astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley home to Earth with a splashdown on Sunday.
Officials in Miami-Dade County announced Thursday that parks and beaches would close in anticipation of the storm.
Isaias already caused tremendous damage to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Mudslides left people and cars stranded in the streets according to authorities. There were as many as 134,086 customers without power on the island Friday afternoon, with 10 hospitals, mainly in western Puerto Rico, using generators and 147,000 customers without water.
ABC News’ Daniel Peck, William Gretsky and Joshua Hoyos contributed to this report.
Miami (AFP) – Hurricane Isaias lashed the Bahamas Friday as it churned toward Florida, bringing new dangers to a US state suffering record deaths from an unrelenting coronavirus outbreak.
The category one storm, packing winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) an hour, gained strength Thursday night after sweeping over the Dominican Republic.
As of 2100 GMT, it was an expansive storm, moving northwest at a speed of 15 mph, kicking up heavy squalls and whipping the southeastern Bahamas and Turks and Caicos island chains with strong winds, the Miami-based National Hurricane Center said.
„Hurricane conditions will continue to spread northwestward into the central and northwestern Bahamas tonight (Friday) and Saturday,” it added.
The eye of the storm was expected to pass over the southeastern Bahamas sometime during the evening Friday and reach the central Bahamas during the night.
Hurricane warnings were up across the low-lying Bahamas while parts of Florida’s east coast — including Palm Beach, the location of President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort — were under a hurricane watch.
Florida could start the feeling the effects of the storm by late Saturday, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed an emergency declaration for counties on the exposed Atlantic coast.
But a slight shift westward in the storm’s trajectory raised hopes that Florida would be spared a direct hit.
DeSantis said it was too early to open shelters, but urged residents to stock up on enough water, food and medicine to last a week.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis on Thursday relaxed strict stay-at-home orders imposed because of the coronavirus to allow residents to prepare for the hurricane.
„I beg you, do not use this period for hurricane preparation to go socializing and visiting friends or family,” Minnis said at a news conference.
„If you do not need to be out, please, please, STAY AT HOME! We are in the midst of a pandemic and if we do not act responsibly, the consequences could be dire,” he said.
It is the Bahamas’ first hurricane since Dorian, a maximum strength Category 5 storm last year that devastated two islands, pummeling them for three days.
– Hurricane plus pandemic –
Isaias left a shambles in Puerto Rico, downing trees and electric lines and inundating houses as it cut a path through the island on Thursday.
„If you are seeing this, please, we need help,” a man in Mayaguez, on the island’s western side, begged in a video that showed his family clinging to the roof of their car as rising waters inundated their house.
In Florida, the concern was that if Isaias does hit, it would cause havoc at a time when hospitals are flooded with a surge of COVID-19 cases.
On Friday, Florida reported another 257 deaths, setting a fourth consecutive single day state record and pushing its virus death toll to 6,843.
The state’s coronavirus testing centers, meanwhile, were closed Thursday and won’t reopen until they get the all-clear.
The state’s emergency management division explained that the testing centers are housed in tents and could not withstand tropical force winds.
For several weeks, Florida has had nearly 10,000 new coronavirus cases a day.
The Republican-run state is now second in the nation in number of cases at 470,386, surpassing early epicenter New York.
Only California, with almost double Florida’s 21 million population, has had more.
US weather forecasters have issued warnings of a potentially life-threatening heat wave over the weekend in south-western areas of the country.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said temperatures could reach 50C (122F) in southern California on Saturday.
Parts of Utah, Arizona and Nevada, including the city of Las Vegas, may also be hit with a heat wave of up to 49C.
It comes after a day of record temperatures in the region on Friday.
The NWS has urged people to take safety precautions like limiting the amount of time spent outdoors.
Forecasters said a high-pressure system was moving through the south-west and causing temperatures to rise.
The NWS said in a tweet that „rare, dangerous and deadly” temperatures were expected in large areas of Arizona until Monday.
As Hurricane Isaias moves closer to Florida, two more weather systems are being tracked by the National Hurricane Center. Both are hundreds of miles from the Caribbean or the United States and pose no threat as of yet.
In a 5 p.m. advisory, the hurricane center said one of the systems is a tropical depression, the tenth this hurricane season. It is forecast to be “a short-lived tropical storm.”
Tropical Depression 10 is about 265 miles east of the Cabo Verde Islands off Africa and is expected to continue north of the Islands Friday night and Saturday.
Sometime Friday night, forecasters say the depression will form into a tropical storm but will weaken on Saturday and become a remnant later that night. There are no coastal watches or warnings in effect.
The second system is a westward-moving tropical wave about 950 miles east of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. It is producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms, forecasters say.
“Some slow development of this system is possible while it turns northwestward over the western Atlantic by early next week,” the NHC said.
The wave has a zero percent chance forming into a cyclone in the next 48 hours and a low 30% chance forming in five days.
PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Seals are thriving off the Northeast coast thanks to decades of protections, and that victory for wildlife has brought a consequence for humans — more encounters with sharks.
Seals are a favorite prey of large sharks such as the great white. The death this week of swimmer Julie Dimperio Holowach, who was killed by a great white off Harpswell, Maine, might have happened because the shark mistook her for a seal, authorities said.
Swimmers off the New England states have learned to be more mindful in recent years due to a spate of sightings of great whites, the apex predator made famous in the movie “Jaws.” A shark that killed a man off Cape Cod in 2018 was also believed to be a great white.
That was the first fatal shark attack in Massachusetts in more than eight decades, while the death of Holowach on Monday was the first documented fatal shark attack in Maine history.
“They’re not vindictive or mad or angry or preferring human flesh. They just occasionally make a mistake. And it’s tragic when they do,” said Greg Skomal, a shark specialist with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries. “As we restore top predators, the potential for these interactions could increase.”
Incidents of shark bites remain vanishingly rare, especially in Northeastern waters. The International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida lists only 10 unprovoked shark attacks off New England, according to records that go back to 1837.
The majority of documented shark attacks in the U.S. happen off Florida, and internationally, warm weather countries such as South Africa and Australia have higher totals than most. But shark bites are rare in those places, too. Australia has been the site of 652 unprovoked shark attacks according to records that go back to 1580, the International Shark Attack File reported.
Shark bites in colder northern waters are not unheard of. A handful have been recorded off Russia, Finland and Washington state. And researchers are seeing more of the great whites off New England, said James Sulikowski, a researcher of Northeastern sharks who is located at Arizona State University.
The greater number of sightings is “unequivocally” because of the resurgence of seals in New England, Sulikowski said. The seal comeback traces to the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, which afforded seals a chance to repopulate after generations of human exploitation.
Grey seals, once hunted with bounties and pushed close to the point of local extinction, are now common sights in coastal Cape Cod. Some people even feel the animals have come back to the point where they pose a nuisance, in part because they draw more sharks.
The sharks aren’t looking for people, but they’re a reason for swimmers to be cautious, Sulikowski said.
“They’re not looking for us. We’re not on the menu,” he said. “But as these predator prey relationships continue, and because they are so coastal, there’s potential for interaction with humans to increase.”
In Maine, marine patrol officers are conducting searches for the presence of sharks in the aftermath of Holowach’s death. The state is restricting swimming at some state parks. And it has sent a clear message to beachgoers — if you see seals, stay away.