Miami, Aug 2 (efe-epa).- Tropical Storm Isaias slowed as it approached Florida’s Atlantic coast, where authorities are not ruling out that it could make landfall on Sunday before continuing on its course toward the northwest.
According to the latest bulletin from the Miami-based National Hurricane Center, the maximum sustained winds associated with Isaias continue to register at 65 miles per hour, but the storm’s ground speed has slowed to 8 mph from what it was just three hours previously.
Isaias, which up until Saturday had been a Category 1 hurricane, leaving at least two people dead on its passage through the Caribbean, was located 40 miles east-southeast of West Palm Beach and 155 miles south-southeast of Cape Canaveral.
The center of the storm on Sunday will be near or over the Florida coast and on Monday and Tuesday it will move in from the open ocean to continue up the Georgia coastline and over other coastal states, the NHC said.
Florida’s Division of Emergency Management said on its Web site that since Saturday state-run shelters have been open for people who have evacuated themselves from Palm Beach and Indian River Counties.
In Palm Beach, where Isaias could make landfall, some 165 people spent the night in those shelters, which have been opened especially for people who live in mobile homes or otherwise fragile dwellings, or whose homes are in flood zones.
Of those in the shelters, 23 were being housed in a special facility set up for people who are especially vulnerable to Covid-19, where health personnel ready to attend to them have been deployed, the online Palm Beach Post daily said.
The Uber ride-hailing service is offering free trips to people who want to move into one of the shelters established by the authorities.
Palm Beach is the Florida county with the third-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases and the one with the second-highest Covid-19 death toll, with 480,000 people having been diagnosed with the disease statewide and more than 7,000 having died since March 1.
The Florida disaster management agency has available a large number of kits containing gloves, face masks and disinfectant for people who must abandon their homes and go to shelters during the storm emergency.
In Miami-Dade County, the Florida epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, rain from the storm’s outer bands has been inundating the region since early on Sunday, but – since the county has been outside the predicted storm trajectory – local authorities gave the green light to opening businesses and parks, marinas and golf courses that had been ordered closed on Saturday.
The NHC reported that its hurricane advisories for the northwestern Bahamas had been cancelled, but storm surge and tropical storm advisories are still in effect for a wide zone extending up the US coast from Florida to North Carolina.
Isaias is moving to the northwest and will continue to do so until Sunday night, when it will trend toward the north-northwest, and on Monday and Tuesday it will move northwards and later north-northeast at a greater speed than its current 8 mph.
No changes in the storm’s winds are expected, with gusts of up to 115 mph at its center.
The heavy winds have left 1,500 people in southeast Florida without electricity, according to the specialized Poweroutage.us Web site, and so far about 30 flights have been cancelled at the Fort Lauderdale and Orlando airports, according to Flightaware.com.
Another threat posed by the tropical storm is possible flooding due to the combination of storm surge and heavy wave action.
The NHC warned that along Florida’s east coast the water could rise by some four feet between Jupiter and Ponte Vedra Beach.
Added to that possibility is the chance of extremely heavy rainfall in eastern Florida and the northwestern Bahamas, the area of the archipelago where Hurricane Dorian left 70 people dead and millions of dollars in economic losses some 11 months ago.
The Nassau government has not yet released a damage report on the passage of Isaias, but local media have reported extensive flooding, power blackouts and downed trees.
Before Isaias developed, this year’s tropical storms have included Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo and Hanna, with the latter becoming the first hurricane of the Atlantic hurricane season and making landfall in Texas on July 25.