Isaias weakens to tropical storm; expected to restrengthen as it approaches Florida

Isaias weakened to a tropical storm Saturday night as it approached the southeast coast of Florida, but forecasters say it will likely restrengthen overnight as it continues its track along the coastline of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas.

Hurricane conditions are expected to reach portions of Florida’s coast Saturday night and will spread north through Sunday. The center of the storm remains at sea, but winds of 70 mph or more and storm surge of 2 to 4 feet are forecast for Sunday. 

A hurricane warning is in effect along Florida’s coast from Boca Raton north of Miami, about 200 miles north to the Volusia-Flagler county line.

The storm is predicted to slowly weaken starting Sunday night and through Monday. As it tracks north, it is also expected to pick up speed.

Hurricane Isais approaches the east coast of Florida Aug. 1, 2020.

At 8 p.m. ET, the storm was centered about 100 miles southeast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, moving northwest at 9 mph with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. 

Tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 105 miles from the center.

Expected rainfall from Isaias, from Friday night through Tuesday in South and east central Florida, could be 2 to 4 inches, with isolated totals of 6 inches, the Hurricane Center said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency in every coastal county of Florida’s Atlantic Coast, stretching from Miami-Dade to Nassau counties, on Friday in preparation for the storm. 

DeSantis warned Saturday that Isaias will probably strengthen back into a hurricane while moving north along Florida’s east coast.

“Don’t be fooled by the downgrade,” the governor said at an evening briefing at the state’s Emergency Operations Center. “We do think it’ll be upgraded back to a hurricane later this evening.”

He said utility companies have alerted thousands of repair workers to restore power lines after the storm. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the state has equipped shelters all along the coast with protective equipment, should evacuation of hospitals or nursing homes become necessary.

Hurricane Isaias:How did the storm get its name, and how do you pronounce it

DeSantis has urged people to have seven days of food, water and medication on hand and said state-run coronavirus testing sites in the areas where the storm could hit would be closed.

Red no swimming flags fly at Lantana Municipal Beach as Isaias approaches the Florida coast Saturday.

Isaias to reach Carolinas on Monday likely as a tropical storm

In South Carolina, forecasters said Isaias would likely arrive as a tropical storm, with winds battering the state Monday and Monday night.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said he did not plan to call an mandatory evacuation ahead of the storm.

“We’ve been through these before, as you know, so we’re fully prepared,” McMaster said. “We’re hoping this storm will not hit us hard, if it hits at all.”

Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke Island, which was slammed by last year’s Hurricane Dorian, starting Saturday evening. 

As hurricane Isaias gathered strength in the Caribbean, it snapped trees and knocked out power in the Bahamas on Saturday. Meanwhile, Miami officials closed beaches, marines and parks as Isaias churned its way through the Bahamas.

Contributing: Associated Press