Isaias picks up speed, forecast to make landfall along coast of the Carolinas

Maura Kelly

Isaias is forecast to take a curved path and make landfall between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, Monday night, after scraping the eastern coast of the Florida Peninsula and coastal Georgia. Isaias will be teetering on the upper end of tropical storm strength and a Category 1 hurricane around the time of landfall.

Even though Isaias may only be a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, it still poses a significant threat for flooding from heavy rain and near the coast from the Atlantic as well as potentially damaging winds near and east of the center of the storm.

By Monday afternoon, Isaias was barreling due north at 13 mph after it picked up forward speed. The storm was packing 70 mph sustained winds and 220 miles south-southwest of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper issued a state of emergency for portions of the state on Friday and urged residents to take the storm seriously.

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Cooper has authorized the activation of up to 150 members of the North Carolina National Guard to be used if needed as well as water rescue teams.

Officials had been anticipating the storm's arrival for days and began taking steps to mitigate potential impacts late last week. Mandatory evacuations were issued Friday on Ocracoke Island, one of the places hardest hit last year by Hurricane Dorian.

"A hurricane during a pandemic is double trouble," Cooper tweeted on Friday. "But the state has been carefuly preparing for this scenario."

AccuWeather forecasters expect Isaias to race up the Eastern Seaboard after making landfall and it will maintain its tropical storm intensity through the mid-Atlantic and into New York City, if not farther north.

The total damage and economic loss caused by Isaias will be between $1 billion and $3 billion, according to AccuWeather founder and CEO Joel N. Myers. The estimate is based on the latest forecast and includes an analysis incorporating independent methods to evaluate all direct and indirect impacts of the storm and is based on a variety of sources, statistics, and unique techniques AccuWeather uses to estimate the damage.

Tropical Storm Isaias
This image, captured on Monday, August 3, 2020, shows Isaias spinning just off the northeastern coast of Florida and on its way to the Carolinas where it's expected to make landfall overnight. (NOAA/GOES-East)

AccuWeather's estimate includes damage to homes and businesses as well as their contents and cars, job and wage losses, infrastructure damage, auxiliary business losses, medical expenses and school closures. The estimates also account for the costs of power outages to businesses and individuals and for economic losses because of highway closures and evacuations, as well as extraordinary government expenses for cleanup operations.

On Saturday, the storm weakened after it interacted with the Bahamas and battled against an area of moderate wind shear and dry air -- both factors that can cause organized tropical systems to weaken.

IsaiasRadarLoop
A radar loop showing Tropical Storm Isaias just off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina on Monday, August 3, 2020. (AccuWeather)

Despite the fact that the storm is churning over very warm waters of the Gulf Stream, sufficiently warm enough to allow the hurricane to maintain strength, Isaias's strength did not change all that much from Sunday through Monday morning.

Regardless if Isaias is a strong tropical storm, or a Category 1 hurricane, it is still forecast to bring areas of flooding and strong winds to the region. Because of this, Isaias is forecast to be a 1 on the AccuWeather RealImpact™ Scale for Hurricanes, a nuanced scale that AccuWeather introduced during the 2019 hurricane season to help better indicate the level of impacts a storm will bring.

Winds picked up across South Carolina late Sunday night as the storm approached the region, and they will spread into eastern North Carolina throughout the day.

"Wind gusts of 40-60 mph will occur over the eastern Carolinas as Isaias moves through the area," stated AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rossio.

Near and just east of where Isaias makes landfall, mainly over the Outer Banks of North Carolina, an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 80 mph cannot be ruled out.

Due to the small size of Isaias, which was previously a large and sprawling storm, the storm's first outer rain bands aren't expected to arrive into the Carolinas until Monday with the heaviest rain to blossom during Monday night.

"Rainfall amounts of 2-4 inches will be common across the the eastern part of the Carolinas. Locally higher amounts of 4-8 inches along where the center of the storm tracks," Rossio added.

An AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 10 inches is possible, especially in the higher terrain. This amount of rainfall can lead to flash flooding across the region.

In addition to the rain, storm surge of 3-6 feet expected to the east of where Isaias makes landfall, in particular over the Outer Banks, could cause coastal flooding. A total of 1-3 feet of inundation is expected elsewhere in the Southeast.

Meanwhile, forecasters were warning residents all along the Eastern Seaboard to keep tabs on Isaias. The storm will track inland of the Northeastern states during Tuesday and Wednesday. Rough surf, coastal flooding and tropical storm-force wind gusts are forecast along the northeastern U.S. coast. Heavy rain and flooding downpours will extend inland, west of I-95.

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, FloridaDaytona Beach, Florida; Jacksonville, FloridaMyrtle Beach, South CarolinaHilton Head, South CarolinaVirginia Beach, VirginiaOcean City, New JerseyNew York CityBoston, Massachusetts.

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