Hurricane Isaias lashed the Bahamas as it churned toward Florida, posing new dangers to a US state already suffering from an unrelenting coronavirus outbreak. Officials there said they were closing beaches and parks.
Hurricane Isaias snapped trees and caused power outages as it pushed through the Bahamas on Saturday. The storm strengthened slightly on its way to Florida and set to approach the southeast of the state later in the day before traveling up the eastern US seaboard.
Isaias was carrying top sustained winds of 85 miles (135 kilometers) per hour and was located about 115 miles (185 kilometers) south-southeast of the Bahamas capital Nassau at 2 a.m. (0600 GMT), heading northwest, the US National Hurricane Center in Miami said.
Miami Mayor Carlos Gimenez said Friday that 20 evacuation centers were on standby that could be set up with COVID-19 safety measures. "We still don't think there is a need to open shelters for this storm, but they are ready," he said.
The storm, a Category 1 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, prompted authorities in parts of the southern US state to close COVID-19 testing sites and people to stock up on essentials.
Isaias has torn down trees, flooded streets and knocked out power for thousands of homes and businesses in Puerto Rico
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the state was "fully prepared for this and any future storm during this hurricane season,'' with stockpiles of personal protective equipment, generators, bottled water and meals ready to be distributed.
But he urged people to have seven days of food, water and medication on hand and said state-run coronavirus testing sites in the areas where the storm could hit would be closed.
In Florida, the concern was that if Isaias does hit hard, could wreak havoc at a time when hospitals are flooded with a surge of COVID-19 cases.
On Friday, the state reported another 257 deaths, setting a fourth consecutive single day state record and pushing its virus death toll to 6,843.
Authorities in North Carolina, meanwhile, ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke Island, which was slammed by last year's Hurricane Dorian, starting Saturday evening. And officials in the Bahamas evacuated people on Abaco island, who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian. People living in the eastern end of Grand Bahama were also being moved.
Isaias has caused at least two deaths in the Dominican Republic and torn down trees, flooded streets and knocked out power for thousands of homes and businesses in Puerto Rico, according to media reports.
sri/rc (AP, Reuters, AFP)