VIRGINIA — Florida was bracing for Tropical Storm Isaias Saturday as the storm churned toward the Sunshine State threatening to bring heavy rains and strong winds to coastal areas north of Miami.
After becoming a hurricane Friday, forecasters said Isaias had weakened to a tropical storm Saturday afternoon with winds dropping to 70 mph. But the storm is forecast to regain hurricane strength Saturday night as it heads toward Florida.
Farther north along North Carolina's Outer Banks and southeastern Virginia, officials also were busy with preparations for a possible strike by Isaias.
North Carolina may be hit by the storm from Monday into Tuesday, where Isaias could make a second landfall after striking the Florida coast.
“With the right protection and sheltering, we can keep people safe from the storm while at the same time trying to avoid making the pandemic worse,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said Friday on Twitter. “A hurricane during a pandemic is double trouble. But the state has been carefully preparing for this scenario.”
On Friday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam also declared a state of emergency in advance of Isaias.
"Hurricane Isaias is a serious storm, and current predictions indicate that it may impact parts of Virginia as early as this weekend," Northam said in a statement. "This state of emergency will ensure localities and communities have the assistance they need to protect the safety of Virginians, particularly as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 crisis."
As residents were stocking up in Hampton Roads in anticipation of Isaias, city crews were working around the clock. The Norfolk Public Works Department was busy cleaning out drains, WTKR reported Saturday. The Office of Emergency Management in Virginia Beach also was closely monitoring the storm's track and taking measure on the oceanfront and inland to prepare for the storm.
In Florida, National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said he anticipates 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," Graham said in an interview with WPLG-TV in Miami. "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."
At 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.
Forecasters said Isaias may drop back to strong tropical storm Monday as it leaves Florida’s northeastern shores.
Coastal change experts at the U.S. Geological Survey are predicting that storm waves kicked up by the storm are likely to cause some erosion at the base of dunes along about 11 percent of coastal beaches between Florida and Virginia.
"However, only about one percent of beaches in the region are likely to have waves overwashing the dunes, and inundation — the most severe type of beach erosion — is not predicted anywhere in the region," the USGS said Saturday afternoon in a news release.