Florida was bracing for hurricane conditions on Sunday, with forecasters warning Tropical Storm Isaias could strengthen before crashing into the state, which is already battling the coronavirus.
Isaias threatens to unleash a storm surge and flash flooding in parts of Florida, the National Hurricane Center said on Sunday, adding that “preparations to protect life and property should be rushed.”
Winds were blowing at up to 110 kilometers per hour as the tropical storm moved towards Miami in southeast Florida.
The deadly storm threw torrential rains over the Bahamas and was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane.
The coast of Florida saw strong gusts of wind early Sunday and President Donald Trump declared an emergency before the storm arrived to free up federal funds.
“We will start to see the impacts of the storm tonight and then obviously tomorrow to tomorrow night,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Saturday evening, adding that Palm Beach County had issued a voluntary evacuation order. .
As the state struggled with high winds and rain, it was also battling its coronavirus outbreak, which complicated preparations.
Florida has the second highest number of cases of any state except California – which has double its population.
Florida reported 179 deaths on Saturday – a new state record that brought its virus death toll to 6,843.
The storm also had an impact beyond Earth, with NASA monitoring whether the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft could safely bring two astronauts back from the International Space Station for a splashdown Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico.
“The teams are working very hard, especially with the weather dynamics for the next few days around Florida,” said Doug Hurley, one of the astronauts, during a farewell ceremony aboard the ISS.
– ‘Hunker down’ –
Florida residents rushed to stock up on essential items as the storm approached.
Jason Woodall, 44, was boarding the Miami Beach store where he works, while others nearby stacked sandbags.
“You always have to be ready, just in case, because you never know,” he says. “It could always get stronger.”
“Remember a few years ago? It stopped right in front, then turned and gained tremendous force,” he added, referring to Hurricane Michael, a powerful Category 5 storm. which hit the region in 2018.
With the high number of virus cases, it is better to “just curl up rather than send people out on the road,” DeSantis said, unless the situation is so dire that people have to seek shelter.
Still, the storm could hamper efforts to contain the pandemic.
“Once we resume testing, it’s very possible that we will have a surge again,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told CNN on Sunday.
Florida’s coronavirus testing centers were closed on Thursday and will not reopen until they get the nod after the storm.
The state’s emergency management division explained that the centers are housed in tents and could not withstand the high winds.
– Flooded houses, felled trees –
Isaias sparked destruction in Puerto Rico, chopping down trees and power lines and flooding homes as he cut a path across the island on Thursday.
Local authorities said on Saturday they recovered the body of a 56-year-old woman whose car was swept away by storm waters.
In the Bahamas, the country’s deputy director of meteorology, Jeffrey Simmons, told the Nassau Guardian that “the worst part” of the storm had reached New Providence, the most populous island, early Saturday.
Images on social media showed flooded streets and downed trees, while shelters were mostly empty.
It’s the archipelago’s first hurricane since Dorian, a Category 5 storm last year that devastated two islands, hitting them for three days.
And in the Dominican Republic, people were cleaning up after the Magua River burst its banks.
(This story was not edited by GalacticGaming staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)