Isaias weakens; may strengthen on path to virus-hit Florida

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Isaias snapped trees in addition to knocked out power as the item blew through the Bahamas on Saturday in addition to churned toward the Florida coast, threatening to complicate efforts to contain the coronavirus in places were cases are surging.

Isaias weakened coming from a hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday afternoon, yet was anticipated to regain hurricane strength overnight as the item barrels toward Florida.

“We’ll start seeing impacts tonight,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned at a news conference. “Don’t be fooled by the downgrade.”

Isaias will be piling another burden on communities already hard-hit by previous storms in addition to the pandemic.

Florida authorities closed beaches, parks in addition to virus testing sites, lashing signs to palm trees so they wouldn’t blow away. The governor warned residents to expect power outages in addition to asked to have a week’s supply of water in addition to food on hand. Officials wrestled with how to prepare shelters for people to seek refuge, if need be, while safely social distancing because of the virus.

Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke Island, which was slammed last year by Hurricane Dorian. Meanwhile, officials within the Bahamas opened shelters for people in Abaco island to help those who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian devastated the area, killing at least 70 people.

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Isaias’ maximum sustained winds dipped steadily Saturday in addition to were near 70 mph (110 kph) around 11 p.m., hours after the U.S. National Hurricane Center downgraded its status. the item said Isaias would certainly regain hurricane strengthen by early Sunday.

By Saturday night, the storm was about 80 miles (130 kilometers) east-southeast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. the item was moving northwest at 9 mph (15 kph) in addition to anticipated to be near Florida’s southeast coast early Sunday, then tack near or along the state’s Atlantic coast during the day.

Isaias will be anticipated to remain a hurricane through Monday, then slow weaken on its climb up the Atlantic seaboard. the item’s anticipated to move offshore of the coast of Georgia en route toward the mid-Atlantic states. Heavy rain, flooding in addition to high winds could batter much of the East Coast during the week.

Despite the approaching storm, NASA says the return of two astronauts aboard a SpaceX capsule will be still on track for Sunday afternoon. Doug Hurley in addition to Bob Behnken are preparing to make the first splashdown return in 45 years, after two months docked at the International Space Station. They are aiming for the Gulf of Mexico just off the Florida Panhandle, in addition to flight controllers are keeping close watch on the storm.

Isaias — pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs — has already been destructive within the Caribbean: On Thursday, before the item became a hurricane, the item uprooted trees, destroyed crops in addition to homes in addition to caused widespread flooding in addition to tiny landslides within the Dominican Republic in addition to Puerto Rico. One man died within the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people coming from floodwaters in which swept away one woman, whose body was recovered Saturday.

Concerns about the coronavirus in addition to the vulnerability of people who are still recovering coming from Dorian were adding to storm worries.

Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis relaxed a coronavirus lockdown because of the storm, yet imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. He said supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations in addition to hardware stores would certainly be open as long as weather permitted.

The Bahamas has reported more than 570 confirmed COVID-19 cases in addition to at least 14 deaths. the item recently barred travelers coming from the U.S. following a surge in cases after the item reopened to international tourism.

As the storm moves currently toward Florida, a hurricane warning will be in effect coming from Boca Raton to the Volusia-Flagler county line, which lies about 150 miles (240 kilometers) north. A storm surge watch will be in effect for Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach.

Coronavirus cases have surged in Florida in recent weeks, in addition to the added menace of a storm ratcheted up the anxiety. State-run virus testing sites are closing in areas where the storm might hit because the sites are outdoor tents, which could topple in high winds.

Natalie Betancur, stocking up at a grocery in Palm Beach Gardens, said in which the storm itself doesn’t cause her great concern. yet, she added, “I feel in which the public will be genuinely panicking because the item’s a hurricane in addition to we’re within the middle of a pandemic.”

DeSantis, the governor, said Saturday in which 16 counties have declared states of emergency, although no immediate evacuation orders were given. The Republican also said hospitals are not being evacuated of coronavirus or additional patients.

Still, the pandemic forced officials handling disaster response to wrestle with social-distancing rules. At one of four shelters in Palm Beach County on Saturday afternoon, people had their temperatures checked before entering. Public buses transporting residents to the shelter were sanitized by work crews between stops.

Kevin Shelton, the owner of Causeway Mowers in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, said his store has been packed For 2 days with folks streaming in to buy generators, chain saws in addition to additional provisions. On Saturday morning, Shelton in addition to his wife served at least 25 customers an hour, double their normal weekend business.

“We’ve been within the area almost 50 years. We keep an eye on every storm,” he said. “the item could shift in This kind of direction at any moment.”

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Anderson reported coming from St. Petersburg, Florida. Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, in addition to Cody Jackson in Palm Beach County, Florida, contributed.

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This kind of story has been updated to correct the spelling of Hallandale Beach. the item also corrects when an evacuation began on North Carolina’s Ocracoke Island. Visitors were told to leave Friday in addition to residents in addition to property owners starting Saturday morning.

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