Heavy rain, powerful winds and rough surf lashed Florida’s eastern coast Sunday as Tropical Storm Isaias inched closer, but forecasters now believe the storm will not return to hurricane strength.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm is packing maximum sustained winds of 65 mph an, as of 8 a.m. Sunday, was about 40 miles southeast of West Palm Beach, moving northwest at 8 mph.
“The good news is that we have a tropical storm, not a hurricane,” Fox News Chief Meteorologist Rick Reichmuth said on “Fox & Friends Weekend.”
ISAIAS WEAKENS TO TROPICAL STORM IN BAHAMAS, EXPECTED TO STRENGTHEN AS IT HEADS TOWARD FLORIDA
The storm weakened to a tropical storm late Saturday but remained a powerful force.
As the storm moves now toward the southeast coast of Florida, a tropical storm warning is in effect from Hallandale Beach, Florida, to South Santee River, South Carolina, and for Florida’s Lake Okeechobee.
A storm surge watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach, and from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to Cape Fear, North Carolina.
According to Reichmuth, the worst of the storm with heavy rain is on the east side of the system and will stay over the ocean, not impacting most of Florida. Areas along Florida’s eastern coast will see high winds and rain, but nothing that should cause major damage.
Forecasters have warned that up to 4 feet of storm surge is possible, with dangerous surf.
“Don’t be fooled by the downgrade,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned during a news conference on Saturday, urging people to remain vigilent.
Florida authorities closed beaches, parks and coronavirus testing sites, lashing signs to palm trees so they wouldn’t blow away
The governor said the state is anticipating power outages and asked residents to have a week’s supply of water, food, and medicine on hand. Officials wrestled with how to prepare shelters where people can seek refuge from the storm if necessary, while safely social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
As of 7 a.m. Sunday, about 700 customers were without power in Palm Beach County and 290 customers were out in Martin and St. Lucie counties.
Florida Power and Light spokesman Bryan Garner told FOX29 the utility has assembled about 10,000 workers, including 2,000 from 20 different states, to restore power as quickly as possible.
FEMA CHIEF WARNS EAST COAST RESIDENTS TO PREPARE FOR HURRICANE ISAIAS: ‘HEED’ STATE AND LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Natalie Betancur, stocking up at a grocery in Palm Beach Gardens, told The Associated Press the storm itself doesn’t cause her a great amount of concern.
“The hurricane is not that serious, but I feel that the public is really panicking because it’s a hurricane and we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” she said.
Victor Edery, who has lived in Hollywood Beach for eight years, told WSVN after riding out Hurricane Irma in 2017 that he also wasn’t concerned about Isaias.
“I’m not afraid of this one,” he said.
Isaias has been destructive in the Caribbean, where it became a hurricane on Thursday and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
One man died in the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floodwaters that swept away one woman. Her body was recovered Saturday.
Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and churned toward the Florida coast.
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By Monday night, Isaias should make landfall as a moderate tropical storm across eastern South Carolina or North Carolina, forecasters said.
Between 2 to 4 feet of storm surge may cause localized flooding in those regions. A narrow swath of 3 to 4 inches of rain can also be expected from South Carolina through New England.
As the system moves up the Atlantic seaboard, the worst of the weather for major cities in the Northeast will arrive by Tuesday afternoon into the evening, when the heaviest rain develops over inland locations.
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The storm comes about a week before the most active period of hurricane season, a threat that lasts about two months.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.