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Florida: Storm Isaias Gains Strength Slightly, Heads Up East Coast

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MIAMI– Isaias, downgraded from a hurricane but still a powerful tropical storm, gathered a bit of strength as it progessed north-northwestward just east of the central coast of Florida on Sunday, packing strong winds and rain.

The center of Isaias is expected to move offshore of the coast of Georgia and southern South Carolina on Monday, before continuing inland over eastern North Carolina on Monday evening, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

By 5 p.m. ET (2100 GMT), Tropical Storm Isaias was about 65 miles (105 kilometers) southeast of Cape Canaveral, Florida heading north-northwestward with top sustained winds of 70 miles per hour (110 kph), the NHC said in its latest update.

Isais is expected to move upward along the East Coast and reach Washington, Philadelphia and New York City on Tuesday before moving into New England.

Little change was expected in the storm’s strength in the next couple of days, the NHC said.

The Palm Beach area, where President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is located, emerged largely unscathed from the storm after it brushed off its coast, with authorities reporting no widespread damage and no flooding.

“We still are experiencing some winds,” Lisa DeLaRionda, a spokeswoman for Palm Beach County, said on Sunday. “However, based on the latest forecast, those winds should be dying down early afternoon.”

Although it appeared that Isaias’ impact on Florida would not be severe, the storm provided local emergency management with a “real-world scenario” of what extreme weather preparation and response could look like in the midst of a public health emergency as the states battles the coronavirus pandemic, DeLaRionda said.

Tropical storm warnings and watches were in effect for parts of Florida, South and North Carolina, the NHC said.

Storm surges, when a storm pushes tidal levels above normal, of up to 4 feet (1.22 m), and flooding also threatened some of the areas in Isaias’ path, forecasters said.

As the storm slowly moved north along the coast, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said earlier on Sunday that Isaias had turned more inland, increasing the threat of heavy rain, flash flooding and tornadoes in the eastern part of the state.

“Right now, we expect the heaviest rain along the I-95 corridor with as much as seven inches in some places,” Cooper told a news conference.

Isaias did not affect the return home on Sunday of two NASA astronauts, who rode to the International Space Station aboard SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon.

They splashed down in the capsule in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday after a two-month voyage that was NASA’s first crewed mission from home soil in nine years.

Isaias caused at least two deaths in the Dominican Republic and knocked out power for thousands of homes and businesses in Puerto Rico, according to media reports.

SOURCE: REUTERS