Isaias Weakens To Storm Status, But Expected To Re-strengthen As It Approaches Florida Overnight

Isaias is forecast to bring heavy rain and strong winds to South Florida this weekend.

Palm Beach County, which could feel hurricane-force winds, has opened a number of shelters ahead of the storm.

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Closed parks and beaches. And no hurricane parties. Palm Beach County officials set precautions and boundaries - and on Saturday afternoon said that so far, people are listening.

Emergency Management director Bill Johnson said people have already found safety in local shelters.

"We have 150 individuals in our shelters. We have 15 dogs, 7 cats, and 1 bird in our pet-friendly shelter. We have secured more than 140 traffic signal heads to reduce the damage and any downtimes in our intersections.”

And the emergency information center has answered over 300 telephone calls.

Johnson said people should stay home as weather worsens the evening goes on.

There could be up to 6 inches of rain along Florida’s east coast, according to the National Hurricane Center. In response, the South Florida Water Management District has activated its emergency operations center Saturday.

“We’ve taken the water in our canals and lowered them so they can accept this rainfall. We’ve manned our pump stations so they’re at the ready,” said Drew Bartlett, the district’s executive director, during a 1 p.m. Facebook update. “Staff in the control room are ready to respond to this event by opening and closing gates, turning on pumps and moving water where we need it go.”

There could also be 1-3 feet of storm surge from North Miami Beach to the Jupiter Inlet.

Isaias weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday afternoon, but was expected to regain hurricane status overnight as it approaches Florida's coast, according to the 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

At the shelters in Palm Beach County, masks and hand sanitizers will be available and people will have their temperatures scanned. COVID isolation areas are available at each place.

Johnson said people will be spaced apart and he doesn’t expect overcrowding issues. All Palm Beach County parks, beaches, and libraries are closed Saturday. 

General population shelters are at: 

A special-needs shelter is open at the South Florida Fairgrounds: 9067 Southern Blvd, West Palm Beach.

And an animals-only shelter is at the West Boynton Recreation Center: 6000 Northtree Blvd., Lake Worth.

For more information on Palm Beach shelters, call the Emergency Information Center, 561-712-6400.

FPL communications chief David Reuter said Saturday that COVID-19 may delay some restoration of power due to new safety measures. 

"These include health screenings for all restoration personnel," he said. "So as our personnel come to our screening sites, as they come in from out of state and arrive into Florida, they'll be going through a health screening process, which will include a temperature check as well as a health screening questionnaire to ensure their safety."

Reuter asked customers to download the FPL app to stay up-to-date on restoration efforts.

In Miami-Dade, the Emergency Operations Center is up and running — but with fewer people than usual.

"We've been working on this virtual EOC concept now for a couple of months, figuring we were getting into the heart of the hurricane season," said Miami-Dade Emergency Management Director Frank Rollason.

Since power often goes down during storms, the county has added physical Internet connections with some essential places like FPL so they can stay in touch if wifi goes out. 

"All of the county facilities are on the ring and are connected to us by hardwire also," Rollason said.

Other partners like the United Way and Red Cross are in touch by Wi-Fi, phone and other methods.

"So it's not a perfect system but in what we're facing today with the COVID, we're trying to avoid packing all those people into the EOC," he said.

Miami-Dade officials say people should stay at home if at all possible until the storm passes the area. Parks, marinas and golf courses are closed. Public transit is running.