FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Tropical Storm Isaias is forecast to become a hurricane on Friday, the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 p.m. EDT public advisory Thursday. It’s the first time Isaias has been projected to become a hurricane.
The storm is also projected to remain a hurricane as it edges closer to South Florida. But the good news for South Florida, although there was still uncertainty, is that the storm track has shifted east off of the state’s east coast, meaning that the possibility of South Florida experiencing hurricane conditions was “quite low,” the National Weather Service said.
But the track wasn’t too far off the coast, potentially setting up the area for yet another nerve-wracking round of asking “Will it or won’t it?” as was the case with 2016’s Matthew, 2017’s Irma and 2019’s Dorian.
A tropical storm watch has also been issued for South Florida covering the entire coastal areas of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
In a statement issued Friday just before 5:30 p.m., the Miami forecast office of the National Weather Service was telling South Floridians that tropical storm-force winds could reach as far west as coastal Palm Beach County and very close to coastal Broward County, and that strong winds also couldn’t be ruled out for Miami-Dade, given the uncertainty in the forecast.
“Therefore, a tropical storm watch has now been put into effect for Southeast Florida. A reasonable worst-case scenario at this time is for portions of southeastern Florida to be potentially impacted by high-end tropical storm-force winds (winds greater than 58 mph),” the statement said.
“Although concerns for hurricane conditions to impact portions of southeast Florida cannot be ruled out, the chances of that remain quite low at this time.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday urged residents to be prepared.
“While we can’t be certain of the exact track of the storm and we certainly can’t be sure about the intensity it will ultimately reach, we do expect to see impacts to the state of Florida even if the storm remains off our shore, which is the current forecast, but this is an evolving situation so please keep up with official updates and make sure you have a plan and have seven days’ worth of food water and medicine,” DeSantis said.
Isaias (ees-ah-EE-ahs), preparing to clear mountainous Hispaniola, was about 250 miles southeast of the southeastern Bahamas as of Thursday afternoon. Its maximum sustained winds were measuring 60 mph. The storm was moving toward the northwest at a speed of about 20 mph.
Athough tropical storm-force winds could start impacting South Florida on Friday night, Saturday would be the most likely day for the area to feel the impacts of Isaias, said Pablo Santos, meteorologist-in-charge at the Miami office of the National Weather Service, on Thursday.
“The key takeaway here is that tropical storm conditions are possible this weekend for South Florida,” Santos said earlier on Thursday. “If it were to happen, Saturday would be the day, so people would have to complete their preparations at the latest on late Friday night just to be safe.”
Santos indicated forecasters would rather err on the side of caution and were stressing the possibility of tropical storm conditions in South Florida until the forecast — with certainty — tells them otherwise because right now there wasn’t a lot of certainty either way.
“If you look at the last two or three advisories, even when the trend has moved ever so slowly eastward, it doesn’t change the messaging,” Santos said. “Until we gain some more certainty, some more confidence in the forecast, I think we have to be very careful.
“So the message we’re putting out there is the concern is tropical storm conditions are still possible across portions South Florida going into this weekend.”
The National Weather Service said South Florida should expect winds in the range of 58 to 73 miles an hour, which could cause the following types of damage:
The National Hurricane Center was also monitoring an area of low pressure off the African coast, near the Cabo Verde Islands, as of Thursday afternoon. The disturbance has been given a 50% chance of formation over the next five days and could become a tropical depression in the next day or so, the hurricane center said.
There have been four other tropical storms so far this month: Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo and Hanna. Other named storms this year have included Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal and Dolly. Tropical Storm Arthur formed in mid-May, making this the sixth straight year that a named storm formed before the official start of hurricane season on June 1.
So far, Hanna has been the only hurricane of the season, striking Texas late last week as a strong Category 1 storm.
Virtually all estimates for this hurricane season predict an above-average number of storms, due to unusually warm ocean temperatures and global climate factors that are likely to reduce the high-altitude winds that can prevent the formation of hurricanes. On July 8, Colorado State University issued a slightly more pessimistic outlook for hurricane season than its earlier forecast, upping the number of named storms from 19 to 20.
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