Editor’s note: Isaias has formed into a hurricane. Read the latest update here.
Tropical Storm Isaias is forecast to strengthen into Hurricane Isaias by Friday night, according to the National Hurricane Center.
The center made that prediction in its 5 p.m. advisory for Isaias, which on Thursday lashed Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic with heavy rains, flooding and sustained winds of up to 60 mph.
Tampa Bay is no longer in the hurricane center’s cone of uncertainty, unlike days earlier. Instead, forecasters project Isaias will turn east and move up the Atlantic waters along Florida’s east coast, eventually approaching the Carolinas as a Category 1 hurricane.
“It could make a run toward the east coast of Florida but I don’t see any problems for us around here,” said Spectrum Bay News 9 Meteorologist Mike Clay. “The models have definitely shifted to the east. This is going to be a very interesting threat for the east side of the country.”
Despite some projections, it’s still uncertain whether Isaias will make landfall in Florida — with some models showing the storm hitting Miami, while others show it moving parallel along the Florida coast. If the storm were to make landfall, it would be the first named storm to do so during this extremely active 2020 Atlantic storm season.
The state has already been taking precautions. All state-run COVID-19 testing sites in Florida will close Friday through Tuesday because of the storm and free sandbagging stations opened up on Thursday in the Florida Keys.
“While we can’t be certain of the exact track of the storm and we certainly can’t be sure of the intensity it will reach, we do expect to see impacts to the state,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a Thursday news conference. “Make sure you have a plan and have seven days of food, water and medicine.”
The storm is projected to reach the Bahamas on Friday and approach South Florida by Saturday morning. The storm has been steadily slowing down as it approaches Florida — a trend the hurricane center expects will continue. The storm was moving northwest at 20 mph at 5 p.m. Thursday. It was moving at 22 mph the day before.
A tropical storm watch was issued for the east coast of Florida from Ocean Reef northward to Sebastian Inlet. The center says that a hurricane warning for the Bahamas could be issued Thursday night.
“Heavy rains associated with Isaias may begin to affect eastern Florida over the weekend,” the center wrote in an advisory. “This rain could result in isolated flash and urban flooding, especially in low-lying and poorly drained areas.”
Isaias has already shown its potential for destruction on Thursday when it knocked out power to more than 400,000 customers and left 150,000 without water in Puerto Rico. At least 35 people, including two newborn babies, had to be rescued by the National Guard, according to the Associated Press.
If Isaias reaches hurricane strength as expected, it’d be the second hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic storm season. The storm already shattered a record as the earliest “I” storm in history, beating the formation of Hurricane Irene on Aug. 7, 2005.
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2020 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide
HURRICANE SEASON IS HERE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane
PREPARE FOR COVID-19 AND THE STORM: The CDC's tips for this pandemic-hurricane season
PROTECT YOUR PETS: Your pets can’t get ready for a storm. That’s your job
NEED TO KNOW: Click here to find your evacuation zone and shelter