Hurricane Isaias moves toward Covid-stricken Florida coast

Hurricane Isaias edged closer to Florida on Saturday, adding to woes for a state grappling with record cases of Covid-19, and potentially causing $3 billion in economic losses if it rakes the eastern seaboard.

With winds rising to 85 miles (137 kilometers) per hour as it pushed through the Bahamas, Isaias has triggered a hurricane warning along Florida’s coast and spurred the governor to declare a state of emergency. Covid testing sites will be shut until Aug. 5, while NASA may have to delay the return flight of two astronauts from the International Space Station planned for Sunday.

After wringing out heavy rains across the Bahamas through Saturday, Isaias’s eye could clip Florida overnight into Sunday.

“For those living on the East Coast, prepare now,” Governor Ron DeSantis said in a tweet. “Have 7 days of food, water, medicine & other supplies in case you lose power.”

Florida’s daily Covid-19 death toll rose to a record earlier this week. Officials in Florida’s coastal counties are distributing sandbags and telling residents to shelter in place.

Isaias’s eye will make its closest approach to Florida’s coast on Sunday and “it’s still very worrisome that it can brush or move inland anywhere from West Palm Beach to Daytona,” said Rob Miller, a meteorologist with AccuWeather Inc. The eye wall, with some of the storm’s strongest winds, could actually buffet the coast without Isaias ever officially making landfall.

Isaias probably won’t get much stronger than it is now, but it could still cause financial hardship to the U.S. East Coast.

“If it does a sweep by Florida and deposits tropical-storm-force winds inland, hits North Carolina and Massachusetts on the way to Nova Scotia, it could hit $3 billion in total economic impacts,” said Chuck Watson, a disaster modeler with Enki Research.

Flooding is likely to spread through North Carolina and into Virginia as the storm moves north, the center said. That could have an impact on cotton crops in North Carolina, said Don Keeney, a meteorologist with Maxar.

Isaias could weaken to a tropical storm by the time it comes ashore near Cape Fear, North Carolina, late Monday, Miller said. It will likely then emerge back into the Atlantic to make a second landfall in New England.

Nine storms have formed across the Atlantic in 2020, the National Hurricane Center said. It’s the fastest start to any season in records going back to 1851, Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, said in a tweet.

A tropical depression off Africa briefly looked like it could become the 10th storm, but it has since fallen apart.


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