MIAMI, FL — Skies darkened over Miami, winds howled, thunder rumbled and feeder bands from Hurricane Isaias pelted areas of South Florida with quick bursts of rain Saturday hours before the then category 1 storm was expected to make its closest approach to Florida's east coast.
“We just had our first feeder band,” Boca Raton resident Laura Tipka told Patch. “It was fun. “The wind was blowing from side to side and it was raining sideways and windy, really windy. Now there’s nothing. The sun is out and the pavement is almost dry.”
The storm was downgraded back to a tropical storm late Saturday afternoon but the National Hurricane Center said Isaias was likely to regain strength as it crossed over the warmer waters around Florida.
"We see re-intensification," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a 5 p.m. news conference from the state emergency operations center in Tallahassee. The governor said voluntary evacuations of mobile homes and homes that would be particularly vulnerable to the storm were ordered in Palm Beach County, which remained under a hurricane warning. "Don't be fooled by the downgrade. We do think it will be upgraded back to a hurricane later this evening."
A hurricane watch from Hallandale Beach to south of Boca Raton was discontinued with the 5 p.m. Saturday advisory but a tropical storm watch has been extended northward from Altamaha Sound, Georgia to South Santee River, South Carolina.
Weather forecasters predicted Saturday's feeder bands in Florida would become more intense as the day wore on with less time between them. As least one small hospital around Cape Canaveral planned to move some coronavirus patients ahead of the storm and specially equipped search and rescue teams were placed on standby for a worst case scenario.
Take in the view from Hurricane Hunter aircraft "Miss Piggy"as it investigates Isaias below:
CARIBBEAN - Inside flight station of NOAA WP-3D #NOAA43 Miss Piggy flying through the eyewall of Hurricane #Isaias during morning flight 080120. Credit Lt. Cmdr. Doremus, NOAA Corps. Follow @NHC_Atlantic for latest forecast and advisories. #FlyNOAA #MsPiggyFlies pic.twitter.com/TLnZaCj56V
— NOAA Aircraft Operations Center (@NOAA_HurrHunter) August 1, 2020
All three official Florida Welcome Centers transitioned to become emergency information centers on Saturday providing the latest details on the storm rather than the usual information about the Sunshine State's many attractions.
"This is something that’s an evolving situation and we know we are going to get some impacts," DeSantis said earlier. "What shape those impacts takes remains to be seen."
The governor said people who are experiencing symptoms of the coronavirus may be placed in hotels though that had not been necessary as of Saturday.
Appearing on WPLG-TV in Miami, National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham anticipated the worst effects of the storm were likely to be felt along Florida's Space Coast area, which refers to the area around the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
"We need to look at this as a large area that approaches the Florida coast," he said. "South Florida, we're going to be on the periphery. You're going to get some tropical-storm-force winds possible. If it approaches a little closer, some more of those winds could get stretched inland but to the north, the Space Coast, that's where we're going to see ... some of the biggest impacts in that part of Florida."
A hurricane warning remained in place for parts of Florida as Isaias slipped from 75 to 70 mph, barely noticeable for most people, but enough to send Isaias back to being a tropical storm for a time.
"On the forecast track, the center of Isaias will approach the southeast coast of Florida tonight and move near or along the east coast of Florida Sunday and Sunday night," the National Hurricane Center said at 5 p.m. Saturday. "On Monday and Tuesday, the center of Isaias will move quickly from offshore of the coast of Georgia into the southern mid-Atlantic states."
Florida's hurricane warning came Friday, a sunny day when some businesses and residents in South Florida raced to erect storm shutters and others filled sandbags ahead of the Category 1 storm.
DeSantis declared a state of emergency Friday in every coastal county that is likely to be affected by the storm along Florida's east coast from Monroe County and Miami-Dade County in South Florida to Nassau County north of Jacksonville. President Trump subsequently approved Florida's emergency declaration.
Updated Warnings, Watches
The 5 p.m. Saturday forecast cone showed Isaias arriving in Florida between Saturday night and early Sunday morning as a hurricane before weakening again by Monday morning. The storm will continue to make its way out of the state as a tropical storm on Monday.
"Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the coast within the hurricane warning area in Florida on Sunday and will spread northward through Sunday night," the National Hurricane Center said at 5 p.m. "Winds are expected to first reach tropical storm strength later tonight, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion."
Tropical storm conditions were expected within the tropical storm warning area in South Florida on Saturday night.
The hurricane warning was in effect from Boca Raton in Palm Beach County up to the Volusia-Brevard county line and from from the Volusia-Brevard county line to the Volusia-Flagler county line, according to the National Hurricane Center.
A tropical storm warning was in effect from north of Ocean Reef to south of Boca Raton and Lake Okeechobee.
A tropical storm watch was in effect from north of Ponte Vedre Beach, Florida to South Santee River, South Carolina.
A storm surge watch was in effect for the Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach. That area could see a storm surge of 2 to 4 feet.
The area of North Miami Beach to Jupiter Inlet could see a storm surge of 1 to 3 feet.
"The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the right of the center, where the surge will be accompanied by large waves," according to the National Hurricane Center. "Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over short distances."
Latest Hurricane Path, Forecast
Isaias was packing maximum sustained winds near 70 mph as of 5 p.m. Saturday with higher gusts. That represents a 15 mph decline from earlier Saturday. Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles from the center of Isaias, which extended 70 miles further earlier on Saturday.
A Weatherflow observing sate at the Dania Pier between Miami and Fort Lauderdale reported a wind gust of 59 mph when an band passed through. A 41 mph wind gust was also reported at a Weatherflow site in June Beach.
The storm slowed to 10 mph in a northwest direction as of 5 p.m. Saturday but still threatens not only portions of the Sunshine State but also Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine.
Expected Rainfall Accumulations
Eastern Florida could receive 2 to 4 inches of rain, with isolated maximum totals of 6
Northeast Florida into coastal Georgia could see 1 to 3 inches. The Carolinas into the mid-Atlantic, including the southern and central Appalachians, could see 2 to 5 inches, with isolated maximum totals of 7 inches.
Southeast New York and much of New England could see 2 to 4 inches, with
isolated maximum totals of 6 inches.
"Heavy rainfall from Isaias could result in potentially life- threatening flash flooding in the Bahamas and flash and urban flooding along the East Coast of the United States," the National Hurricane Center said at 5 p.m. "Minor river flooding and isolated moderate river flooding is possible across portions of the Carolinas and Virginia.."
The east coast of Florida and the southeastern U.S. coast could see swells through Sunday that are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.
"These swells will spread along the east coast of Florida and the southeastern United States coast today," the National Hurricane Center said. "These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions."
The storm was 115 miles south of Fort Lauderdale.and about 95 miles south of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island.
Miami-Dade Preparations For Storm
In Miami-Dade County, which is considered to be the epicenter of Florida's coronavirus outbreak, Emergency Management Director Frank Rollason said officials will take special precautions if evacuations are ordered.
"They'll be screened, asked if they have any particular signs or symptoms," he said. "Their temperature will be taken. If they present to us with a particular problem, or if they have been cohabitating with somebody that is positive and has that exposure, we will isolate them away from general population in the evacuation center by utilizing school classrooms."
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez urged his 2.8 million residents to wear masks if they ride out the storm with people outside of their regular households.
"If you are going to be sheltering with somebody else when you have maybe one or two families together, you need to start to separate inside the home," Gimenez cautioned.
Miami-Dade County-operated beaches, parks, marinas, golf courses and the Deering Estate were closed Saturday as were beaches in Miami Beach.
Florida state officials shut down all state-supported drive-thru and walk-up COVID-19 testing sites ahead of the storm.
A hurricane warning means hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area. That is a higher level alert than a hurricane watch, which means hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area.