SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Isaias ripped shingles off roofs and blew over trees as it carved its way through the Bahamas early Saturday and headed toward the Florida coast, where officials in Miami said they were closing beaches, marinas and parks.
Miami Mayor Carlos Giménez 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.
Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke Island, which was hit hard by last year’s Hurricane Dorian, starting Saturday evening. Meanwhile, 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 had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (135 kph) Saturday morning and some strengthening was possible later Saturday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The storm was centered about 80 miles (125 kilometers) south-southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas and was moving northwest at 12 mph (19 kph). Forecasters said some decrease in its forward motion was expected.
A hurricane warning was in effect for Florida’s east coast from Boca Raton, just north of Miami, about 150 miles (241 kilometers) north to the Volusia-Brevard county line. A hurricane watch was in effect from Hallendale Beach to south of Boca Raton.
Florida Gov. 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.
Miami’s mayor said that social-distancing measures prompted by COVID-19 meant each person in shelters needed to have 40 square feet (3.7 square meters) and no more cafeteria-style dining would be allowed. People who are infected with the new coronavirus and need to evacuate will be isolated in classrooms separate them from the general population, Giménez said.
In Daytona Beach and Polk County, authorities distributed sandbags and other officials advised people to have emergency provisions at home sufficient for three to seven days.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Minnis relaxed a coronavirus lockdown as a result of the storm, but imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. He said supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and hardware stores would be open as long as weather permitted.
]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.
Isaias was expected to drop from 4 to 8 inches of rain in the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands.