Florida braces for hurricane conditions as Isaias approaches

MIAMI (AFP) – Florida braced for hurricane conditions yesterday, with forecasters warning tropical storm Isaias could strengthen before slamming into the state, which is already struggling with the coronavirus.

Isaias is threatening to trigger a storm surge and flash flooding in parts of Florida, the National Hurricane Centre said yesterday, adding that “preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.”

Winds were gusting up to 70 miles an hour as the tropical storm churned toward Miami, in Florida’s southeast. The deadly storm earlier dumped torrential rain on the Bahamas and was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane.

Florida’s coast experienced heavy gusts of wind early yesterday, and United States (US) President Donald Trump declared an emergency ahead of the storm’s arrival to free up federal funds.

“We will start seeing impacts from the storm tonight and then obviously through tomorrow into tomorrow night,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said Saturday evening, adding that Palm Beach county had issued a voluntary evacuation order.

As the state battened down in the face of raging winds and rain, it was also battling its coronavirus outbreak, which has complicated preparations. Florida has the second highest number of cases of all states except California – which has double its population.

On Saturday, Florida reported 179 deaths – a new state record that pushed its virus death toll to 6,843.

The storm has had an impact beyond earth too, with NASA monitoring whether the SpaceX Crew Dragon craft could safely bring two astronauts back from the International Space Station for a splashdown on Sunday in Mexico.

A man stocks up on water and paper towels at the Lantana, Fla Costco as Hurricane Isaias approaches the Florida coast. PHOTO: AP