Hurricane Isaias strengthens and slows down as it approaches Florida’s southeast coast

Editor’s note: This story contains the path and predicted track of Hurricane Isaias, according to the National Hurricane Center. Check back for updates.

Hurricane Isaias strengthened overnight, with winds now at 85 mph, according to the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

Hurricane conditions are expected along portions of Florida’s east coast late Saturday and Saturday night,

  • Location:  80 miles south-southeast of Nassau
  • Maximum sustained winds: 85 mph
  • Present movement: northwest at 12 mph
  • Next advisory: 8 a.m.

At 5 a.m., the center of Hurricane Isaias was located 80 miles south-southeast of Nassau.

Isaias is moving toward the northwest near 12 mph, and a general northwest motion, with some decrease in forward speed, is expected for the next day or so, followed by a turn toward the north-northwest by late Sunday.

► Hurricane Isaias: View conditions along Florida beaches

On the forecast track, the center of Isaias will move near or over the Central Bahamas this morning, near or over the Northwestern Bahamas later today and near the east coast of Florida tonight through Sunday.

Maximum sustained winds are near 85 mph, with higher gusts.

Little change in strength is expected through Sunday, and Isaias is forecast to remain a hurricane during this time.

Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 35 miles from the center and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 175 miles.

The estimated minimum central pressure is 988 mb.

What can Florida residents expect and when will Hurricane Isaias arrive?

Hurricane conditions are expected to reach Florida’s coast within the hurricane warning area in Florida tonight and will spread north through Sunday.

“Wind gusts of 60-70 mph can occur over the Bahamas and eastern Florida through the weekend, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ wind gust of 80 mph possible in eastern Florida and 100 mph expected in the western parts of the Bahamas,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Rob Miller.

Expected rainfall from Isaias, from Friday night through Tuesday in South and east Central Florida, could be 2 to 4 inches, with isolated totals of 6 inches, the Hurricane Center said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in every coastal county of Florida’s Atlantic Coast, stretching from Miami-Dade to Nassau counties, on Friday in preparation for the storm. 

“While current projections have the eye of Isaias remaining at sea, the situation remains fluid and can change quickly,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Isaias Friday. DeSantis called on Floridians to remain vigilant and heed warnings.

AccuWeather forecasters expect Isaias to make a run along the eastern seaboard of the United States this weekend into early next week.

How far west versus east Isaias tracks and exactly how strong and large the eye wall becomes will determine the severity of conditions in the Bahamas and along the Florida Atlantic coast, AccuWeather said.

AccuWeather meteorologists expect Isaias to fluctuate in strength through this weekend with intensity ranging from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm and perhaps a Category 2 hurricane for a time.

A Category 1 hurricane has winds ranging from 74 to 95 mph, while a Category 2 hurricane has winds of 96 to 110 mph. A tropical storm has winds of 39 to 73 mph.

Seas and coastal water levels will build in advance of the storm by roughly 24 hours, according to AccuWeather. People along the coast can expect a quickening breeze and increasing surf and rip currents in advance of the storm as well.

Watches and warnings in effect

A hurricane warning is in effect for:

  • Boca Raton to the Volusia/Flagler County line 
  • Northwestern Bahamas
  • Central Bahamas

A hurricane watch is in effect for:

Hallandale Beach to south of Boca Raton

A storm surge watch is in effect for:

  • Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach

A tropical storm warning is in effect for:

  • North of Ocean Reef to south of Boca Raton
  •  Lake Okeechobee

A tropical storm watch is in effect for:

  • Volusia/Flagler County line to Ponte Vedra Beach

Hazards affecting land

Storm surge: The combination of a dangerous storm surge and the tide will cause normally dry areas near the coast to be flooded by rising waters moving inland from the shoreline. The water could reach the following heights above ground somewhere in the indicated areas if the peak surge occurs at the time of high tide:

  • Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach: 2-4 feet 
  • North Miami Beach to Jupiter Inlet: 1-3 feet

The deepest water will occur along the immediate coast near and to the right of the center, where the surge will be accompanied by large waves. Surge-related flooding depends on the relative timing of the surge and the tidal cycle, and can vary greatly over short distances. A dangerous storm surge will raise water levels by as much as 3 to 5 feet above normal tide levels in areas of onshore winds in the Bahamas.

More: Storm surge is often a hurricane’s deadliest, most destructive threat

Wind: Hurricane conditions are occurring over portions of the Central Bahamas and will spread over the Northwestern Bahamas later today. Hurricane conditions are expected to reach the coast within the hurricane warning area in Florida tonight and will spread northward through Sunday.

Winds are expected to first reach tropical storm strength later today, making outside preparations difficult or dangerous. Preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion. Tropical storm conditions are expected within the tropical storm warning area, and are possible within the watch area, over southern Florida by this afternoon or evening.

Rainfall: Isaias is expected to produce the following rain accumulations:

  • Bahamas: 4 to 8 inches.
  • Cuba: 1 to 2 inches, with isolated maximum totals of 4 inches.

These rainfall amounts could lead to life-threatening flash and urban flooding, especially in low-lying and poorly drained areas.

From Friday night through Tuesday:

  • South Florida into east-Central Florida: 2 to 4 inches, with isolated maximum totals of 6 inches.
  • Northeast Florida into coastal Georgia: 1 to 2 inches.
  • Carolinas into the mid Atlantic, including the southern and central Appalachians: 2 to 4 inches, with isolated maximum totals of 6 inches.

Heavy rainfall from Isaias could result in potentially life-threatening flash and urban flooding, especially in low-lying and poorly drained areas. Minor river flooding is possible across portions of the Carolinas and into Virginia.

Surf: Swells generated by Isaias are affecting portions of Hispaniola, eastern Cuba, the Turks and Caicos, and the southeastern and central Bahamas. These swells will spread along the east coast of Florida and the southeastern United States coast today. These swells are likely to cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.

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