DURHAM, N.C. – Hurricane Isaias has been downgraded down to a tropical storm after it made landfall late Monday night in North Carolina, hammering the state’s coast with heavy rain and strong winds.
Isaias, which prompted evacuation orders in the Tar Heel State over the weekend, brought maximum sustained winds of 85 mph to southern North Carolina near Ocean Isle Beach, the National Hurricane Center wrote in an advisory. The storm made landfall around 11:10 p.m.
“Now that the center has moved further inland into east North Carolina, the winds are now coming back down, so it has been downgraded back to a tropical storm,” Robbie Berg, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center, told the Associated Press.
The weather service also said in its 4 a.m. advisory that threats of tornadoes were beginning to spread into southeastern Virginia.
Nearly 270,000 customers were without power in North Carolina as of 2:05 a.m. Tuesday, according to poweroutage.us.
The storm could continue to bring down trees and cause power outages as it moves north along the mid-Atlantic and New England coastline, Berg said.
“We don’t think there is going to be a whole lot of weakening, we still think there’s going to be very strong and gusty winds that will affect much of the midAtlantic and the Northeast over the next day or two,” Berg said. Rainfall will continue to be a big issue, he added.
Isaias – pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs – began Monday as a tropical storm before strengthening into a hurricane hours before hitting the North Carolina coast.
President Donald Trump, speaking during a Monday press briefing, said he has issued emergency declarations for Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. He added personnel from FEMA are "on the ground in all areas."
A tropical storm warning was in effect for a huge portion of the eastern U.S., all the way from Georgia to Massachusetts, impacting 113 million Americans, according to the weather service.
Mandatory evacuation orders were issued Dare and Hyde counties in eastern North Carolina ahead of Isaias’ arrival. Brunswick -- where Ocean Isle Beach is located -- and Sampson counties had voluntary evacuation orders.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster on Saturday tweeted that evacuations for his state were “unnecessary,” but urged residents to take personal precautions.
Flood watches were posted all the way from the Carolinas to New England. In all, about 54 million people live where flood watches are in effect. These watches include the Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City metro areas.
Hurricane center director Ken Graham said 90% of fatalities from tropical storm systems are from water. "So that's a dangerous situation – too much precipitation," Graham said. "If you're out and about, don't drive your car where water covers the road."
The storm could also spin up a few tornadoes, the hurricane center said. The tornadoes will be possible over coastal South Carolina beginning Monday evening, spreading across eastern North Carolina into Tuesday morning.
Tornadoes will also be possible on Tuesday from eastern Virginia northeastward into southern New England.
Isaias is the earliest named ninth Atlantic tropical cyclone on record, Weather.com said. The previous record was Irene on Aug. 7, 2005.
Meanwhile, forecasters were watching yet another system out in the Atlantic. A weather disturbance located a few hundred miles north of the Leeward Islands is producing disorganized showers and thunderstorms, the hurricane center said.
"Environmental conditions could allow for some slow development of this system during the next several days, with a tropical depression possibly forming later this week," the hurricane center said.
Contributing: The Associated Press; Haley Walters, Greenville (S.C.) News
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hurricane Isaias track: Storm makes landfall in North Carolina