Weakened Tropical Storm Isaias lashes virus-hit Florida
ST PETERSBURG, Florida (AP) — Early bands of heavy rain from Isaias lashed Florida’s east coast before dawn Sunday as authorities warily eyed the approaching storm, which threatened to snarl efforts to quell surging cases of the coronavirus across the region.
Isaias weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm late Saturday afternoon, but was still expected to bring heavy rain and flooding as it barrels toward Florida.
“Don’t be fooled by the downgrade,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis warned during a news conference on Saturday after the storm — pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs — spent hours roughing up the Bahamas.
Florida authorities closed beaches, parks and virus testing sites, lashing signs to palm trees so they wouldn’t blow away.
The governor said the state is anticipating power outages and asked residents to have a week’s supply of water, food and medicine on hand.
Officials wrestled with how to prepare shelters where people can seek refuge from the storm if necessary, while safely social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.
In Palm Beach County, about 150 people were in shelters, 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.
The storm’s maximum sustained winds declined steadily throughout Saturday, and were at 65 miles per hour by Sunday morning, the US National Hurricane Center said at 8:00 a.m.
The storm’s center was located 40 miles east-southeast of West Palm Beach.
The center of the storm was forecast to approach the southeast coast of Florida early Sunday morning, then travel up the state’s east coast throughout the day.
Little change was expected in the storm’s strength over the next few days, forecasters said.
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