Overnight, as Hurricane Isaias passed over the Bahamas, it moved west. That means that a storm track that was projected to keep the Category 1 storm along the Florida coast is now expected to bring the storm into the state more solidly. The eye of Isaias is currently described as “ragged” and it’s unclear just how well organized it will be when it strikes, but it’s still likely to sweep along Florida’s Atlantic coast with hurricane force winds and a significant storm surge. Maximum sustained winds for Isaias were 85 mph as of 8 AM Eastern, but some gusts were recorded as high as 140 mph. The storm is currently moving northwest at 12 mph and the eye wall could move over land on Saturday evening. Even though the track has moved westward, the storm is still expected to just skim the coast from near West Palm Beach up to around Cocoa Beach before swinging back out to sea. The eye of Isaias may not actually come ashore in Florida, but could make a more definitive landfall in the Carolinas on Monday.
Compared to major hurricanes that have hit the United States over the last few years, Isaias doesn’t appear to represent the threat of devastating winds or enormous storm surge. Even if the eye of the storm reforms in the passage from Andros to the Florida coast, it’s still expected to be a Category 1 storm and most homes and buildings in the region are well-hardened to storms at that level. Also, unlike many recent storms, Isaias’ relatively rapid pace means that its not going to be sitting in one region for a sustained period, drowning an area under feet of rain. However, there is one definite issue with Isaias that makes this storm unique — it’s striking in the middle of a pandemic.
For safety, and in anticipation of the need for resources to address the storm, Florida has suspended COVID-19 testing until at least Tuesday. So don’t mistake a sudden drop in numbers there as an early August miracle (Side note: Be prepared for that moment when Trump inevitably tweets that hurricanes blow away the virus, and then speculates about whether it’s possible to inject people with hurricanes.)
At a Friday conference with both FEMA and the Florida Division of Emergency Management, officials announced that they are deploying “25 shelter kits” to counties expected to be affected by Isaias. Each of these kits will contain multiple masks and other PPE gear for 400 people. This gear is being readied in case wind, rain, or storm surge requires evacuation of some areas and people are forced to come to shelters. At the moment, there are no plans to evacuate specific areas, to relocate patients in hospitals, or to close facilities other than testing sites.