Isaias has made landfall in the Carolinas as a category 1 hurricane, bringing with it maximum sustained winds of 85mph (140km/h) and the threat of devastating floods.
The eye of Isaias hit the coast on Monday night near Ocean Isle beach in southern North Carolina, the National Hurricane Center said, hours after being upgraded from a tropical storm.
The center has already warned oceanside residents to brace for storm surge of up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) and up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain in spots as Isaias continues its march up the US east coast.
Coastal residents secured patio furniture, ferry operators completed evacuations on the Outer Banks, and officials passed out sandbags and offered car space in elevated garages.
The Carolinas aren’t the only states at risk, with Isaias likely to bring more heavy rains of up to eight inches in spots as it moves north. “All those rains could produce flash flooding across portions of the eastern Carolinas and mid-Atlantic, and even in the northeast US,” said Daniel Brown, a senior hurricane specialist at the hurricane center.
Isaias was upgraded from a tropical storm to a category 1 hurricane on Monday evening, when the storm was centered about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of Myrtle Beach.
A tropical storm warning extended all the way up to Maine, where flash flooding was possible in some areas on Wednesday.
Donald Trump on Monday described Isaias as “very serious”, saying people should
“remain vigilant until it passes”.
Over the weekend, Isaias brought heavy rain and flooding to Florida as officials kept a close eye on the storm while dealing with surging cases of the coronavirus.
The storm had weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm on Saturday afternoon, and its most damaging winds remained offshore.
“Don’t be fooled by the downgrade,” Florida governor Ron DeSantis warned at a news conference after the storm spent hours roughing up the Bahamas.
DeSantis said that with Florida entering the season’s most active time for hurricanes, residents should have a week’s supply of water, food and medicine on hand.
Upper-level winds later sapped much of the storm’s strength, said Stacy Stewart, senior hurricane specialist at the hurricane center in Miami.
“We were expecting a hurricane to develop and it didn’t,” Stewart said Sunday. “It’s a tale of two storms. If you live on the west side of the storm, you didn’t get much. If you live east of the storm, there’s a lot of nasty weather there.”
Isaias caused destruction and two deaths as it uprooted trees, destroyed crops and homes and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and the US territory of Puerto Rico.
One man died in the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floods that swept away one woman, whose body was recovered Saturday.
Isaias then snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday. Officials in the Bahamas opened shelters for people in Abaco island to help those who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian devastated the area, killing at least 70 people in September 2019.
Authorities closed Florida beaches, parks and virus testing sites, lashing signs to palm trees so they wouldn’t blow away. Officials also adapted their shelter policies to the pandemic, providing spaces where people could stay safely apart from each other to prevent the spread of the virus.
In Palm Beach county, about 150 people were in shelters, and they were wearing masks, said emergency management spokeswoman Lisa De La Rionda.
The county has a voluntary evacuation order for those living in mobile or manufactured homes, or those who feel their home can’t withstand winds.
In Indian River county, north of West Palm Beach, Florida, emergency shelters were clearing out Sunday after Isaias was downgraded to a tropical storm.
Officials told TCPalm newspapers that 38 people registered at three schools used as shelters. Those areas now must be cleaned to ensure no traces of the coronavirus remain as teachers and staff report Monday to prepare for the upcoming school year.
No one checked in with Covid-19 symptoms. Temperature checks were done at the door, officials said, and isolation rooms were designated in case anyone came in with symptoms.