Portions of Florida's east coast are under a hurricane warning as Isaias has swelled into a hurricane that could further strengthen while threatening to brush the state this weekend.
As of 11 .p.m. on Friday, the hurricane warning is in effect for portions of Florida's east coast from Boca Raton in Palm Beach County north to the Volusia-Flagler county line.
A tropical storm watch also remains in effect for Florida’s east coast, from Hallendale Beach in Broward County north to Boca Raton, and from the Volusia-Flagler County line north to Ponte Vedra Beach.
The National Hurricane Center says that Isaias maintains its northwesterly to northerly track just off the Florida coast and along the U.S. East Coast.
The forecast track has gradually nudged slightly to the west in Friday's advisories from the National Hurricane Center.
Hurricane Isaias became a Category 1 hurricane in the warm Caribbean waters overnight following its pass over mountainous Hispaniola, according to the hurricane center.
The second hurricane of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, and the earliest "I" named storm, has maximum sustained winds at 80 mph – with higher gusts – while producing strong winds and flooding rains over the Dominican Republic and Haiti
As of 11 p.m., the center of Isaias was located about 135 miles southeast of Nassau, Bahamas, and moving northwest at 15 mph. On its current track, Isaias will slow down over the next two days before turning toward the north this weekend.
Florida Public Radio Emergency Network meteorologist Jeff Huffman said the track is increasing the risk along Florida's east coast.
"The closer this gets, the more wind and surge impacts there might be along the Treasure and Space Coasts," he said. "At the very least, tropical storm conditions are expected in those areas, beginning in South Florida Saturday, and spreading all the way to the First Coast by late Sunday."
Forecasters say the storm should maintain hurricane strength as it passes the Bahamas – portions of which are still recovering from Hurricane Dorian – on Friday night and approaches Florida on Saturday and through the weekend before making its way past the Carolinas into early next week.
The Miami area should experience tropical storm-force winds starting Saturday morning, with the Orlando area seeing increased winds Saturday night and Jacksonville on Sunday night.
“It isn’t clear whether the center of Isaias will move directly over the Atlantic coast, but it looks like it will come plenty close enough to bring effects as soon as Saturday with some rain bands in Southeast Florida and rough seas,” said Ray Hawthorne, meteorologist with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network. “The hurricane is forecast to move parallel to the Florida coast and toward the Carolinas later Sunday into Monday.”
Southwesterly wind shear was causing the strongest winds and heaviest rain to be displaced to the east of the center of the hurricane based on satellite imagery and reconnaissance aircraft reports.
As a result of the lopsided nature of the hurricane and the usual uncertainty in the forecast track, it is not clear whether hurricane conditions will make it to the Florida east coast. However, tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area in anticipation of at least tropical storm force winds this weekend.
Forecasters say conditions remain favorable for Isaias to further strengthen over the next 24 hours, and a western Atlantic subtropical ridge and mid-level ridge near the Carolinas could determine how close it approaches the coastal areas of Florida and the mid-Atlantic.
Interests along the entire east coast are encouraged to monitor the progress of forecasts in the coming days, they said.
The greater Tampa Bay region will see increased rain chances associated with Isaias this weekend as it moves to the north, according to the National Weather Service.
Sandbags Available In Polk County
Sandbags will be made available for Polk County residents Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 a.m. They will be limited to 10 per vehicle:
- Mulberry: 900 NE 5th St.
- Lakeland: 8970 N. Campbell Rd.
- Fort Meade: 1061 NE 9th St.
- Frostproof: 350 County Road 630A
- Auburndale: 1701 Holt Rd.
- Dundee: 805 Dr. Martin Luther King St. SW
Information from the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network was used in this report.