Tropical Storm Isaias was churning well off the coast of northeastern Florida on Monday morning, and it will soon depart the offshore waters of the Sunshine State. The bulk of heaviest precipitation remained well off the coast, but the east coast of Florida did pick up its share of high winds over the weekend.
By early Monday morning, Isaias, after strengthening a little again, was packing 70-mph sustained winds as it crawled up the Atlantic coast moving north-northwest at 9 mph. It was about 65 miles south of Cape Canaveral, Florida, but all eyes were on the Carolinas where AccuWeather forecasters expect it to have its biggest impact.
The Carolinas were also bracing for the storm, which meteorologists say could make landfall just south of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Monday evening. In Charleston, local officials were preparing sandbag pickup locations for residents, as a storm surge warning was in effect from Edisto Beach, South Carolina to Cape Fear, North Carolina.
"All residents visiting these sites will be required to wear masks and gloves, and maintain six feet of distance between themselves and other patrons," the city of Charleston said in a statement.
Tropical Storm Isaias made it within 50 miles of Florida's Atlantic coast on Sunday, August 2, 2020. (AccuWeather)
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued a state of emergency for portions of the state on Friday and urged residents to prepare ahead of Isaias' approach.
As early as Friday, mandatory evacuations were issued on Ocracoke Island, one of the places hardest hit last year by Hurricane Dorian.
"Although the track and arrival of the [storm] could still change, now is the time for North Carolinians to prepare," Cooper said. "[Storm] preparations will be different given the COVID-19 pandemic, and families need to keep that in mind as they get ready."
North Carolina Emergency Management (NCEM) readied the National Guard should crew members need to respond to flood rescues, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation was also on standby with equipment should they need to respond to storm damage early in the week.
Before Isaias pulls away from Florida, it could drop 2-4 inches of rainfall with some locally higher amounts are possible. The storm will continue to unleash wind gusts of 40-50 mph with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 60 mph over eastern Florida Monday as it makes its way toward the Carolinas. Winds of that magnitude could cause localized power outages and cause some minor damage. As of Sunday night, there were fewer than 500 power outages across the entire state, according to PowerOutage.us.
This radar image, captured at 3:30 a.m. Monday, shows the majority of rain and thunderstorms from Isaias mainly offshore of Florida. (AccuWeather)
Winds at Vero Beach, Florida, were gusting to tropical-storm-force on Sunday afternoon, making for a wild and bumpy ride for one kite surfer who dared to challenge Isaias' gusts. And high winds kicked up by Isaias caused a transformer to explode in West Palm Beach on Saturday night as the storm approached.
Along the Florida coast, in Palm Beach County and Indian River County, shelters were opened on Saturday night in advance of potential impacts that may relocate residents later in the weekend. The Florida Division of Emergency Management is offering free Uber rides to any residents looking to reach the shelters.
The shelters across Palm Beach County housed around 150 people by Sunday morning and were keeping their space and wearing masks, The Associated Press said. "We don't anticipate many more evacuations," emergency management spokeswoman Lisa De La Rionda told The AP.
As another precaution, hotel rooms had been readied along the East coast of Florida should those infected with COVID-19 need to evacuate and remain quarantined.
The attitudes of many Floridians, including beachgoers, didn't exactly suggest a tropical storm was on the prowl about 50 miles off the coast.
"Just a normal day at the beach," Florida resident Joe Cherico calmly told AccuWeather National Reporter Jonathan Petramala on Saturday. "Just a little wind, a little breeze, nothing too serious. But yeah, there might be a Category 1 hurricane coming."
Forecasters say Florida won't experience Isaias as a hurricane. The storm was downgraded to a tropical storm as its maximum sustained wind speeds dropped to 65 mph by Sunday morning, before ticking back up to 70 by the evening. According to the National Hurricane Center, however, Isaias will creep closer to hurricane strength when it nears the northern South Carolina coast on Monday night.
Tropical Storm Isaias sitting just off the coast of Florida on Sunday morning. (Image/NOAA)
On satellite, the storm's formation continued to look ragged on Sunday. Strong westerly winds aloft were causing the storm to tilt in the vertical with the middle part of the storm farther to the east than the surface feature. This is why the heaviest rain and strongest winds will stay offshore of Florida.
NASA arranged plans for a spacecraft to undock from the International Space Station and splash down landing near Florida on Sunday. However, there were concerns that Isaias would create hazardous conditions at the primary splashdown site.
Before the landing, NASA reported that the gulf "looks like glass" and weather conditions were perfect for the touchdown. Thanks to Isaias weakening, the capsule had a successful splashdown off Pensacola, Florida.
The hurricane warning along the east coast of Florida was replaced with a tropical storm warning early Sunday morning, ahead of Isaias' expected arrival.
"Don't be fooled by the downgrade," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a press conference on Saturday afternoon, urging residents to remain vigilant as the tropical storm could still cause disruptions across the state.
The storm is expected to continue its course and could come within 25 miles of the Florida coast before it tracks farther north along the East coast.
On its trek toward Florida, Isaias made landfall in the Bahamas around 11 a.m. EDT Saturday on the northern part of Andros Island, NHC reported. The storm's maximum-sustained winds fluctuated between 80 and 85 mph throughout the morning, before the storm weakened a bit due to its interaction with land.
The storm came within 40 miles west-southwest of Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas Saturday, after leaving behind scenes of flooding in Puerto Rico late in the week. It dumped more than a foot of rain in some places, and images posted on social media showed some flooding on the island of Grand Bahama. According to The New York Times, no Isaias-related fatalities had been reported. Much of the island chain is still recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian last September.
At least two deaths have been blamed on Isaias' impacts, according to Reuters. Civil Defense officials said Chiche Peguero, 53, was killed when powerful winds caused a high-voltage power line to fall in Río San Juan, a city in the María Trinidad Sánchez province. A 5-year-old boy was also killed after a tree crushed his home on Thursday evening, according to elCaribe, a local news organization.
As the storm closed in on the Bahamas, residents were still rushing to complete preparations for the storm on Saturday, Paula Miller, Mercy Corps director for the Bahamas, told the AP, adding that people were still in long lines to buy gas on Grand Bahama.
"People are doing the best they can to prepare, but a lot of businesses still have not fully repaired their roofs or their structures" since devastating Hurricane Dorian struck in 2019, Miller said. "Even a lower-level storm could really set them back."
Heavy rainfall due to Isaias is expected for the Bahamas into Sunday night, which could result in flash-flooding in the northwest Bahamas.
People in any shelters will be urged to social distance and there will be more space in between families Other counties were taking a wait-and-see approach.
Florida has been experiencing a major surge in COVID-19 cases over the last month. On Friday, Florida reported a record number of COVID-19 fatalities for the fourth straight day, bringing the total death toll there since the pandemic began to nearly 7,000, data from John Hopkins University shows.
Mask-wearing customers could be seen shopping for needed groceries and other supplies ahead of the storm's anticipated arrival.
Surfer Kristie Lane told Jonathan Petramala that she was taking advantage of higher swells from approaching Isaias in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020. Forecasters warned that surf could be dangerous with increased rip currents through the weekend. (AccuWeather / Jonathan Petramala)
AccuWeather National Weather Reporter Jonathan Petramala reported live from Cocoa Beach, Florida, on Friday and noted that sandbag locations were being opened up all across Florida's east coast ahead of the storm's anticipated heavy rain.
Petramala additionally reported from Melbourne Beach, Florida, that the surf brought in by Isaias had wiped out sea turtle nests.
Really sad to see these sea turtle nests being wiped out by #isaias surge and surf. Fortunately turtles lay multiple nests as a hedge some will survive. #Melbournebeach @accuweather pic.twitter.com/DP84eVhfOw
— Jonathan Petramala (@jpetramala) August 2, 2020
Businesses were seen boarded up as beaches were closed in West Palm Lake and Lake Forth Worth, Florida, on Saturday, but other areas along the East coast looked like any normal day at the beach with people out and about instead of making final preparations.
Petramala talked with people in Cape Canaveral, Florida, who were enjoying the sand and surf Saturday despite the looming storm.
"We're excited about it because we can be out here surfing with a swell that we don't usually get," Kristie Lane, a surfer, told Petramala on Saturday morning. Florida resident, Barry Stephens, told Petramala that he plans to hunker down during the storm but that he has lived through other storms and doesn't plan to board up windows.
"We don't ever board up because we're inland. And we went through Charlie and didn't have any windows broken during that time. So we pretty much just hunker down in the house and hope all goes well," Stephens said.
Isaias has already written a new page in the record books. It became the earliest "I-storm" in recorded history on Wednesday night, surpassing Irene, which formed on Aug. 7, 2005. The storm was also the earliest in the season to move through the Bahamas since 1995 when Category 1 Erin passed over the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama on Aug. 1-2, according to Colorado State tropical meteorologist Philip Klotzbach.
It's not just meteorologists who need to keep a close eye on how storms develop and where they're heading. AccuWeather users can now do that from home using our local hurricane tracker pages that provide detailed information about a specific location.
Click on the city name to track how Isaias will impact each place as it churns northward: Miami, Florida; Daytona Beach Florida; Jacksonville, Florida; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Hilton Head, South Carolina; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Ocean City, New Jersey; New York City; Boston, Massachusetts.
Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.