Hurricane Isaias ripped shingles from roofs and blew on trees as it made its way through the Bahamas early Saturday and made its way to the Florida coast, where officials in Miami said they were closing beaches, marinas and parks.
Miami mayor Carlos Giménez said on Friday 20 evacuation centers were on hold and could be set up with Covid-19 security measures.
“We still don’t think there’s a need to open shelters for this storm, but they are ready,” he said.
Authorities in North Carolina have ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke Island, which was criticized by Hurricane Dorian last year, starting on Saturday evening. Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas have evacuated people to Abaco Island, who are living in temporary structures from Dorian. People living in the eastern end of Grand Bahama were also displaced.
Isaias had maximum sustained winds of 85 mph (135 km / h) on Saturday morning and strengthening was possible later on Saturday, the US National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The storm was centered about 125 km south-southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas and was moving northwest at 12 mph (19 km / h). Forecasters said some decrease in its forward movement was expected.
Paula Miller, Mercy Corps director for the Bahamas, told The Associated Press that while the islands can normally withstand severe hurricanes, some have been destabilized by the coronavirus pandemic and the damage caused by Dorian.
“With everything not quite substantiated, the property unsecured, the house unprepared, even a Category 1 will be enough to push them back,” she said.
A hurricane warning was in effect for the east coast of Florida from Boca Raton, just north of Miami, about 241 km north of the Volusia-Brevard County line. A hurricane watch was in effect for Hallendale Beach south of Boca Raton.
Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida, said the state was “fully prepared for this storm and any future storm during this hurricane season,” with stocks of personal protective equipment, generators, water in bottle and meals ready for distribution.
But he urged people to have seven days of food, water and medicine and said state-run coronavirus testing sites in areas where the storm could strike will be closed.
The mayor of Miami said the social distancing measures prompted by Covid-19 meant that each person in the shelters had to have 3.7 square meters (40 square feet) and that no cafeteria-style catering would be allowed. People infected with the novel coronavirus and who must evacuate will be isolated in classrooms separate from the general population, Giménez said.
A hurricane warning was in effect for the northwest and central Bahamas.
“Keep crouching,” said Trevor Basden, director of the Bahamian Meteorology Department.
Two of those islands, Abaco and Grand Bahama, were battered by Dorian, a Category 5 storm that hovered over the region for two days and killed at least 70 people, with more than 280 missing. People still live in tents on both islands, and officials said crews attempted to clear the remaining debris before Isaias.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis relaxed a coronavirus lockdown in the wake of the storm, but imposed a 10 p.m. – 5 a.m. curfew. He said supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and hardware stores would be open as long as time permitted.
The Bahamas has reported more than 570 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and at least 14 deaths. It recently banned travelers from the United States after an increase in the number of cases after it reopened to international tourism.