SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Forecasters declared a hurricane warning for parts of the Florida coast Friday as Hurricane Isaias drenched the Bahamas on a track for the U.S. East Coast.
Officials in Florida said they were closing beaches, marinas and parks in Miami-Dade County. Mayor Carlos Giménez said the county had 20 evacuation centers on standby that could be set up with COVID-19 safety measures.
“We still don’t think there is a need to open shelters for this storm, but they are ready,” he said.
Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Oracoke Island, which was slammed by last year’s Hurricane Dorian, starting Saturday evening. Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas evacuated people on Abaco who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian as well as people at the eastern end of Grand Bahama.
Isaias had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph late Friday and was expected to strengthen through early Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The storm was centered about 135 miles south-southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas and was moving northwest at 15 mph.
The hurricane knocked shingles off roofs and tumbled trees as it carved its way through an archipelago still recovering from Dorian’s devastation. Bahamas Power and Light Co. cut off power in certain areas for safety.
Paula Miller, Mercy Corps director for the Bahamas, told the Associated Press that while the islands can normally withstand strong hurricanes, some have been destabilized by the coronavirus pandemic and the damage caused by Dorian.
“With everything not quite shored up, property not secured, home not prepared, even a Category 1 will be enough to set them back,” she said.
The Hurricane Center said heavy rains associated with the storm “may begin to affect South and east-Central Florida beginning late Friday night, and the eastern Carolinas by early next week, potentially resulting in isolated flash and urban flooding, especially in low-lying and poorly drained areas.”
A hurricane warning was in effect from Boca Raton, just north of Miami, about 150 miles north to the Flagler-Volusia county line. A hurricane watch was in effect south of Boca Raton to Hallendale Beach.
In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floodwaters that swept away one woman who remains missing.
Isaias was expected to produce 4 to 8 inches of rain in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.
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