Florida battened down on Saturday as Hurricane Isaias barreled toward the state before its expected move up the U.S. East Coast.
The storm, which had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, was forecast to make landfall in the Bahamas on Saturday before heading to near Florida’s east coast that afternoon through Sunday.
Florida is already fighting the coronavirus pandemic and one county official in South Florida said Friday it was hard to imagine that they were now dealing with a storm.
“It’s just kind of been the way 2020’s going so far, but we roll with it, right?” Howard Tipton, administrator for St. Lucie County, which is north of Palm Beach County, said at a news conference. “We don’t get to determine the cards that we’re dealt.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday that a request he sent to President Donald Trump for a federal disaster declaration was approved, and “the state of Florida is fully prepared.”
DeSantis, who has urged residents to have seven days’ worth of food, water and medicine on hand ahead of the hurricane, said that while he doesn’t “anticipate hospitals needing to evacuate patients,” one small hospital in Brevard County moved its COVID-19 patients to another location.
Miami-Dade County meanwhile ordered parks, beaches, marinas and golf courses closed through at least Saturday.
The state’s east coast from Boca Raton, 40 miles north of Miami Beach, to the Flagler-Volusia county line, north of Daytona Beach, was under a hurricane warning Saturday morning, the National Hurricane Center said.
Palm Beach County, which is in the warning area, said it was opening four shelters and one for animals Saturday morning. The shelters are for residents of mobile or manufactured homes and other housing deemed substandard.
Florida Power & Light Company said it activated its emergency response plan and recruited around 2,000 people from 10 states to help restore power. The utility expects a large part of its coverage area to feel the storm’s effects.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez on Saturday morning told residents to stay home and that high winds and flooding were expected in some areas of South Florida by mid-afternoon.
Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Oracoke Island, which was slammed by last year’s Hurricane Dorian.
The Bahamas evacuated people in Abaco, who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian, and those on the eastern end of Grand Bahama. The hurricane knocked shingles off roofs and tumbled trees as it carved its way through the archipelago.
Even if it does not make landfall, the storm is relatively large and its effects could extend beyond the hurricane’s center.
On Thursday, while still a tropical storm, Isaias toppled trees, destroyed crops and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where hundreds of thousands of people were left without power and water.
Officials reported that a man died in the Dominican Republic when he was electrocuted by a fallen electrical cable. More than 5,000 people were evacuated, and more than 130 communities remained cut off by floodwaters.