Hurricane Isaias lashes Bahamas, nears Florida

Hurricane Isaias strengthened slightly as it lashed the Bahamas on Saturday, bearing down on Florida and was expected to approach the southeast of the state later in the day before travelling up the eastern U.S. seaboard.

Isaias was carrying top sustained winds of 140 km/h and was located about 125 kilometres south-southeast of the Bahamas capital Nassau at 5 a.m. ET, heading northwest, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

Its centre was approaching Andros Island in the Bahamas and was due to pass over or near islands in the central and northwest Bahamas on Saturday, bringing a danger of damaging storm surges of up to 1.52 metres over normal tide levels, the NHC said.

The storm, a Category 1 on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, prompted authorities in parts of Florida to close COVID-19 testing sites and people to stock up on essentials.

Residents fill and collect sand bags before the expected arrival of Hurricane Isaias in Doral, Fla., on Friday. (Liza Feria/Reuters)

Isaias was expected to deliver heavy rains to the state’s Atlantic coast beginning late Friday before hitting the eastern Carolinas by early next week, the NHC said.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis established a state of emergency for a dozen counties on the Atlantic coast, which makes it easier to mobilize resources. North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper followed suit.

2 deaths in Dominican Republic

The storm has caused at least two deaths in the Dominican Republic and torn down trees, flooded streets and knocked out power for thousands of homes and businesses in Puerto Rico, according to media reports.

WATCH | Puerto Rico hit by Isaias:

Widespread damage reported as storm gains hurricane strength on its way to U.S. East Coast. 1:01

Public beaches, parks, marinas and golf courses were closed in Miami-Dade County on Friday.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties also closed drive-through and walk-up testing sites for COVID-19, as the state at the epicentre of the country’s outbreak reported a record increase in coronavirus deaths for a fourth day in a row.

DeSantis said testing sites would remain open on Florida’s west coast, and testing at hospitals and community centres may also continue.

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