Florida, already hard hit by the coronavirus, is bracing for another brutal blow Sunday as Tropical Storm Isaias is expected to strengthen into a hurricane again on its way to the Sunshine State.
Isaias weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday after it blew through the Bahamas.
“Don’t be fooled by the downgrade,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday. “We’ll start seeing impacts tonight.”
Isaias is moving northwest with maximum sustained winds of 110 kph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said late Saturday. It is expected to reach the southeastern coast of Florida early Sunday and travel up the state’s east coast toward North Carolina.
Both the southern U.S. states Florida and North Carolina have declared hurricane warnings.
DeSantis has declared a state of emergency for a dozen counties on the Atlantic coast. Heavy rains from the storm are expected to arrive over the Carolinas by early next week.
“The most important thing we want people to do now is remain vigilant,” DeSantis said.
Florida is one of the U.S. states hardest hit by the novel coronavirus, with more than 480,000 cases and more than 7,000 deaths as of Saturday.
The storm has prompted authorities in parts of Florida to close coronavirus testing sites at a time cases have been growing in the state.
Officials in Miami-Dade County said they do not believe it will be necessary to open evacuation centers for this storm but said 20 centers remain on standby in case conditions change.
In North Carolina, in addition to declaring emergencies in coastal counties, Gov. Roy Cooper also ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke Island, which was hit by last year’s Hurricane Dorian.
In the Bahamas, Isaias downed trees and knocked out power. Officials evacuated people in Abaco and in the eastern end of Grand Bahama.