Tropical Storm Isaias Forms in the Atlantic


Tropical Storm Isaias has officially formed in the Atlantic Ocean, the ninth named storm system of the busy 2020 hurricane season.

The storm is expected to pass over Hispaniola on Thursday and the Southeastern Bahamas by early Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The storm will most likely strengthen by Friday, and Florida and Cuba should monitor Isaias’ path over the next few days, the center said.

On Wednesday night, Isaias was 155 miles south of Ponce, Puerto Rico, moving west-northwest around 20 m.p.h. with maximum winds of 50 m.p.h.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, U.S. Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, St. Martin and St. Barthelemy, Saba and St. Eustatius, St. Maarten, Turks and Caicos Islands and parts of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Bahamas.

On Wednesday, the Florida Division of Emergency Management announced that all state-sponsored coronavirus testing sites would close at 5 p.m. Thursday. They will remain closed until it is safe to reopen, which is expected to be no later than 8 a.m. the following Wednesday, according to a statement.

“All sites have free standing structures including tents and other equipment, which cannot withstand tropical storm force winds, and could cause damage to people and property if not secured,” the statement said.

As the storm passes through the state, testing sites will reopen on a rolling basis, and symptomatic Floridians are encouraged to pick up a self-swab test from any of the testing sites.

On Wednesday alone, Florida reported more than 9,400 new coronavirus cases and 216 deaths. There have been more than 451,000 cases of coronavirus and more than 6,300 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in the state, a New York Times database shows.

Emergency managers this year have been wary of what might happen if a major hurricane strikes during the coronavirus pandemic. Evacuation orders often put people in close contact with one another in shelters, which would make maintaining social distancing and other safety measures against the virus difficult to maintain.

Over the weekend, officials in Hawaii worried that space at shelters could be limited because of social distancing policies if Hurricane Douglas hit the islands grimly. The American Red Cross also faced obstacles recruiting volunteers to run the state’s shelters because of anxieties surrounding exposure to the coronavirus.

Last week, Hanna hit the southern coastal region of Texas as a Category 1 hurricane, taking aim at some of the same communities that have seen a sudden spike in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. As the storm neared the coast, the mayor of Corpus Christi urged people who had taken in relatives to wear masks in their homes; San Antonio opened a reception center for people who had fled their homes, where officials handed out vouchers for hotel rooms.

The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, has been a busy one. The first tropical storm was Arthur, which formed off the coast of Florida in May, followed by Bertha, which made landfall near Charleston, S.C., later that month. The systems made 2020 the sixth year in a row that a storm developed before the official start of the season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted an above normal Atlantic hurricane season, with as many as 19 named storms — of which six to 10 could become hurricanes. And three to six of those could develop into Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricanes.

An average hurricane season usually produces 12 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes and three of those six developing into major hurricanes.

An analysis of observational data of satellite images since 1979 by researchers suggest that climate change is making hurricanes stronger and more destructive.

Christina Morales and Marie Fazio contributed reporting.





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