Isaias Live Updates: Storm Plows Toward Florida After Soaking Bahamas

Tropical Storm Isaias scrapes the Florida coast.

Bracing for drenching rain and heavy winds, Floridians are hunkering down on Sunday as Tropical Storm Isaias whips the state’s east coast, driving storm surges of two to four feet and the threat of flash flooding as it goes.

At 8 a.m. Eastern time, the center of the storm was about 40 miles offshore, east of West Palm Beach, Fla., and was moving northwest at about eight miles an hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. Its powerful right-hand side was continuing to lash the northwestern Bahamas.

Isaias clobbered the Bahamas with hurricane conditions on Saturday after hitting parts of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. It was downgraded to a tropical storm Saturday evening when its sustained winds slipped below 74 m.p.h.; they were about 65 m.p.h. at 8 a.m. Sunday. Forecasters said on Sunday that they were expecting only minimal changes in strength for the next few days.

Flooding from the storm’s heavy rains led to the death of at least one person in Puerto Rico, the island’s Department of Public Safety said on Saturday in a statement. A woman who had been missing since Thursday drowned near Rincón, in the northwest portion of the island.

As it advances northward, the center of the storm may skirt close to the coast of Florida without making landfall, or it may come ashore briefly on Sunday, forecasters said. Officials in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina were closely monitoring the storm, which is expected to affect the coasts of any of those states.

Complicating the emergency response to the storm, reported coronavirus cases continue to rise sharply in all four of those states, and health officials have warned that their health care systems could be strained beyond capacity with the influx of new patients. The situation would worsen if the storm knocks out power across wide areas or forces evacuations of hospitals and nursing homes.

Emergency management officials have been drawing up new plans to accommodate people who must flee their homes, including placing evacuees in hotel rooms instead of shelters like converted school gymnasiums.

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The storm is expected to soak much of the East Coast with heavy rain.

While Isaias’ winds remain capable of significant damage, its heavy rains may be the biggest punch the storm packs, especially in the Bahamas. Forecasters said totals of 4 to 8 inches of rain were likely there before the storm passes, with isolated areas of 12 inches — more than enough to cause potentially deadly flash flooding.

Much of the East Coast of the United States will also get a soaking, though the totals are not expected to be as extreme as that. Two to four inches are expected in most of eastern Florida, with isolated areas of up to six inches. Northeast Florida will get a little bit less, as the storm’s center tracks offshore, but the eastern Carolinas and coastal Virginia will get a bit more as the storm makes landfall there, forecasters said.

The storm will still be dumping 2 to 4 inches of rain in its path, with up to 6 possible in some areas, when it reaches New Jersey, New York and New England Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nursing homes, already tested by the pandemic, may be vulnerable.

Three years after a dozen nursing home residents died during Hurricane Irma, Florida’s former ombudsman warned that Isaias will test nursing homes already battling the coronavirus pandemic.

Lawmakers passed regulations after air-conditioners failed at one home in 2017, leading to heat-related deaths. They mandated that nursing homes install backup generators in case of severe weather.

But this May, the state issued 95 variances — passes that allow facilities to operate despite noncompliance — to nursing homes that had not met the emergency requirements, according to The Miami Herald.

The former ombudsman, Brian Lee, who now runs Families for Better Care, an advocacy group for nursing home and elder-care residents, said he doubted state officials who said the nursing homes were prepared.

“I can’t imagine that these facilities are prepped and ready to handle a pandemic and a hurricane simultaneously,” Mr. Lee said. “They are going to be over their heads and under water. It is a total recipe for disaster.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Friday that state-run coronavirus testing sites, which are mostly housed under tents at outdoor venues, will be closed if they are within Isaias’s anticipated path.

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