sunny.png
Tuesday August 11th, 2020 8:34PM

Hurricane Isaias hits Bahamas; virus-battered Florida braces

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Hurricane Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and churned toward the Florida coast, where it is threatening to complicate efforts to contain the coronavirus in a hot spot.

The storm is piling another burden on communities already hard-hit by other storms and sickness.

Florida authorities closed beaches, parks and virus testing sites. Though officials do not expect to have to evacuate people, they wrestled with how to prepare shelters where people can seek refuge from the storm if necessary, while safely social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The most important thing we want people to do now is remain vigilant,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke Island, which was slammed by last year’s Hurricane Dorian. Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas opened shelters for people in Abaco island to help those who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian devastated the area, killing at least 70 people.

Isaias — pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs — had maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour (120 kilometers per hours) at 2 p.m. Saturday, a decline from earlier in the day, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said. It is expected to regain strength as it heads over warm water toward Florida.

The center of the storm is forecast to approach the southeast coast of Florida early Sunday morning and then travel along the state's east coast throughout the day. It is expected to remain a hurricane through Monday then slowly weaken.

Despite the approaching storm, NASA says the return of two astronauts aboard a SpaceX capsule is still on track for Sunday afternoon. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are preparing to make the first splashdown return in 45 years, after two months docked at the International Space Station. They are aiming for the Gulf of Mexico just off the Florida Panhandle, and flight controllers are keeping close watch on the storm.

Isaias has already been destructive in the Caribbean: On Thursday, while still a tropical storm, it uprooted trees, destroyed crops and homes and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. One man died in the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floodwaters that swept away one woman, whose body was recovered Saturday.

Concerns about the coronavirus and the vulnerability of people who are still recovering from Dorian were adding to worries about the Category 1 storm.

Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis relaxed a coronavirus lockdown as a result of the storm, but imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. He said supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and hardware stores would be open as long as weather permitted.

“The center of COVID-19 now is in Grand Bahama,” the island’s minister, Sen. Kwasi Thompson, told government-run ZNS Bahamas. “No one wanted to see a situation where we are now facing a hurricane.”

The Bahamas has reported more than 570 confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 14 deaths. It recently barred travelers from the U.S. following a surge in cases after it reopened to international tourism.

Paula Miller, Mercy Corps director for the Bahamas, told The Associated Press that people on Grand Bahama were still standing in line for gas on Saturday ahead of the storm.

“People are doing the best they can to prepare, but a lot of businesses still have not fully repaired their roofs or their structures" since Dorian, said Miller. “Even a lower level storm could really set them back.”

As the storm moves now toward the southeast coast of Florida, a hurricane warning is in effect from Boca Raton to the Volusia-Flagler county line, which lies about 150 miles (240 kilometers) north. A hurricane watch was in effect from Hallandale Beach to south of Boca Raton. A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere within the area, and a watch means they are possible.

Florida has been a coronavirus hot spot in the United States in recent weeks, and the added menace of a hurricane ratcheted up the anxiety there as well. State-run virus testing sites are closing in areas where the storm might hit because the sites are outdoor tents, which could topple in high winds.

Natalie Betancur, stocking up at a grocery in Palm Beach Gardens to ride out the storm, said that the storm itself doesn't cause her a great amount of concern.

“The hurricane is not that serious, but I feel that the public is really panicking because it’s a hurricane and we’re in the middle of a pandemic," she said.

DeSantis, the governor, said Saturday that 12 counties have adopted states of emergency, although no immediate evacuation orders have been given. He also said that hospitals are not being evacuated of coronavirus or other patients.

The Republican governor told a morning news conference that the state is prepared with stockpiles of personal protective equipment, generators, bottled water and meals ready to be distributed.

The pandemic forced officials to wrestle with social-distancing rules at the same time as disaster response.

At one of four shelters in Palm Beach County on Saturday afternoon, people had their temperatures checked at the door before entering. Public buses are transporting residents to the shelter as crews work to sanitize the buses between stops.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez said each person in a shelter needed to have 40 square feet (nearly 4 square meters), and cafeteria-style dining would not be allowed. Any evacuees infected with the new coronavirus would be isolated in classrooms separate them from the general population, Giménez said.

Kevin Shelton, the owner of Causeway Mowers in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, said his store has been packed since Friday. Folks streamed in to buy generators, chain saws and other provisions. On Saturday morning, Shelton and his wife served at least 25 customers an hour, double the business they’d normally do on a weekend.

“We’ve been in the area almost 50 years. We keep an eye on every storm," he said. "It could shift in this direction at any moment.”

___

Anderson reported from St. Petersburg, Florida. Associated Press writers Tamara Lush in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida, and Cody Jackson in Palm Beach County, Florida, contributed.

___

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Hallandale Beach. It also corrects when an evacuation began on North Carolina’s Ocracoke Island. Visitors were told to leave Friday and residents and property owners starting Saturday morning.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP World News, AP Business, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Online Headlines - Georgia News
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Hurricane Isaias hits Bahamas; virus-battered Florida braces
Hurricane Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas and churned toward the Florida coast
3:39PM ( 8 minutes ago )
The Latest: Arizona Rep. Grijalva tests positive for virus
Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona says he has the coronavirus
3:31PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Aubameyang goals clinch FA Cup for Arsenal, beating Chelsea
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has clinched a record-extending 14th FA Cup for Arsenal
3:14PM ( 33 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Astronauts face final leg of SpaceX test flight: coming home
A pair of NASA astronauts face the final and most important part of their SpaceX test flight: returning to Earth with a rare splashdown
2:05PM ( 1 hour ago )
Negotiators report progress in COVID-19 aid talks
Lawmakers participating in rare weekend talks on a huge coronavirus relief measure have reported progress, as political pressure mounts to restore a newly expired $600-per-week supplemental unemployment benefit and send funding to help schools reopen
1:46PM ( 2 hours ago )
Portland protest peaceful after federal presence reduced
More than a thousand people showed up in downtown Portland early Saturday to peacefully protest, about three days after the announcement that the presence of U.S. agents there would be reduced
1:46PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP National News
Trump says he'll act to ban TikTok in US as soon as Saturday
President Donald Trump says he will take action as soon as Saturday to ban TikTok, a popular Chinese-owned video app that has been a source of national security and censorship concerns
1:01PM ( 2 hours ago )
Mexico No. 3 in virus deaths; storm could hinder US response
Mexico now has the third most COVID-19 deaths in the world, behind Brazil and the United States
12:22PM ( 3 hours ago )
Thousands protest in Berlin against coronavirus restrictions
Thousands have converged in Berlin to protest Germany's coronavirus restrictions at a demonstration proclaiming “the end of the pandemic” has arrived
12:13PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Online National News
The Latest: Judges consider Louisiana bar order amid virus
Two Louisiana federal judges have refused to immediately stop enforcement of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ coronavirus order prohibiting bars from letting customers drink onsite
1:59PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Florida reaches 7,000 deaths from coronavirus
Florida health officials have reported 179 new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the state’s total to more than 7,000
12:23PM ( 3 hours ago )
Financially struggling zoos could be latest pandemic victims
Zoos and aquariums from Florida to Alaska are struggling financially because of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic
11:15AM ( 4 hours ago )
AP Business
The Latest: Arizona Rep. Grijalva tests positive for virus
Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona says he has the coronavirus
3:31PM ( 16 minutes ago )
Aubameyang goals clinch FA Cup for Arsenal, beating Chelsea
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has clinched a record-extending 14th FA Cup for Arsenal
3:14PM ( 33 minutes ago )
Ruling renews fairness debate in Boston Marathon bomber case
An appeals court ruling overturning the death sentence of Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has raised familiar questions about whether he can receive fair trial in a city that remains traumatized by the 2013 attack
3:13PM ( 34 minutes ago )
Liberty rookie Sabrina Ionescu has Grade 3 left ankle sprain
New York Liberty top draft pick Sabrina Ionescu has a Grade 3 left ankle sprain according to the team
3:13PM ( 34 minutes ago )
AP sources: Jets LB C.J. Mosley opting out of NFL season
Two people familiar with the decision tell The Associated Press that New York Jets linebacker C
2:59PM ( 48 minutes ago )