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Tropical Storm Isaias moves past South Florida, leaving little damage behind

David Fleshler, Marc Freeman, Mario Ariza, Brooke Baitinger and Joe Cavaretta, Sun Sentinel on

Published in Weather News

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- South Florida was largely spared from the winds of Tropical Storm Isaias, which weakened slightly as it passed offshore Sunday morning and into the afternoon.

By 2 p.m., the storm had passed South Florida and was located 45 miles southeast of Vero Beach. It was still producing top winds of 65 mph as it headed north toward central Florida's coast at 9 mph.

Tropical storm warnings were still in effect from the Jupiter Inlet to Surf City in North Carolina.

Through Sunday morning, coastal Broward and Palm Beach counties saw tropical-force winds, which means speeds of at least 39 mph, according to the National Weather Service in Miami.

But the damage was minimal. A few trees came down in residential areas in Palm Beach County, but they didn't damage any homes or other structures, Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner said.

Isaias is expected to remain a strong tropical storm, with winds of 65 mph, for the next two days.

The storm has cleared South Florida, but officials urged anyone in hard-hit areas to stay inside

"Please resist the urge to venture out after the storm," said Bill Johnson, Palm Beach County's emergency management director. "Our emergency response crews need to go out and survey the roads and infrastructure for any damage and major hazards. You don't need to be out on the road complicating that process. A major cause of post-storm injury is motor vehicle crashes caused by downed or missing street signs. You're safer at home."

But residents were already out Sunday morning checking out the storm.

Eric Erickson and his son went out around 10:30 a.m. to take a pass at the rough surf in Delray Beach.

"You better know how to paddle if you try it," said Erickson, 56, from Moorehaven. He said he's been surfing for 40 years, and this was particularly rough.

His son Ethan, from Orlando, called the waves "gnarley."

"We're headed south," he said. "Gonna try Deerfield."

At the closed Lantana beach park, a few people strolled on the little beachfront that was still visible. Waves crashed all the way up to the wall, and stairs that usually go down to the sand now lead into a churning foam of sea water. Shortly before 1 p.m., police and lifeguards stationed on the beach told surfers, swimmers and those walking the boardwalk that the park was closed.

Florida Power & Light warned the storm could bring "widespread" power outages to southeast Florida. COVID-19 precautions could slow the restoration of power, FPL said.

Almost 200 homes were without power around 2 p.m. in Broward County, according to FPL's power tracker map. Crews worked overnight and restored power to 6,600 by 9 a.m.

In Palm Beach County, 390 homes were without power, and crews had already restored 9,640.

There were 151 reported homes without power in Miami-Dade, with crews restoring power to 4,140.

Those who live north of Palm Beach County on Florida's east coast should expect more outages through Monday, said Dave Reuter, FPL's spokesman. FPL officials are tracking the storm and crews are following it from south to north, working in areas when winds are slower than 35 mph.

"A significant number of customers remain in the path of this storm through the Palm Beaches, Treasure Coast and central and north Florida," Reuter said. "The storm has the potential to knock out power to a significant amount of customers based on its current track."

Reuter said that even a slight turn makes a big difference in the number of outages possible, and tropical storm force winds were likely to blow trees and vegetation into power lines.

Broward and Miami-Dade County never opened shelters, and Palm Beach County opened six. By late Saturday afternoon, Palm Beach County's shelters held 140 people, and the county's pet-friendly shelter accommodated 15 dogs, seven cats and one bird.

Palm Beach County authorities urged residents of mobile homes to evacuate, but residents didn't appear worried. At mobile home and manufactured home communities, only handfuls of homes had windows covered with plywood, metal or translucent hurricane shutters.

In Lake Worth, a woman named Cricket Allie watched as her grandson put hurricane shutters on her manufactured home. She intended to stay, saying she would only evacuate if the storm were expected to reach Category 3 force. But she was taking the precaution of putting up shutters. Having grown up in coastal Florida, she respected the power of hurricanes.

"A lot of people who don't pay the price," Allie said.

 

Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said his Plantation home was without power and had been since around 2 p.m. Saturday.

"We had a bit of a squall come through," he said. Holness added he had no other damage to report from across the county as of Saturday evening.

South Florida sprung into action in its first brush with a storm this season after hurricane watches and warnings were issued late Friday afternoon.

A hurricane warning, which means hurricane conditions are expected within 36 hours, was issued at 5 p.m. for the coast from Boca Raton to the Volusia County-Flagler County line. A hurricane watch, which means hurricane conditions are possible, was issued for the entire Broward County coast.

South Florida started to feel the first gusts of the hurricane on Saturday morning as the storm made landfall on Andros Island in the Bahamas. The National Weather Service reported gusts of up to 40 mph in parts of South Florida and urged residents to finish getting ready.

Leaders urged caution in the Bahamas, where many people are still living in tents from last year's strike by Hurricane Dorian. Prime Minister Hubert Minnis announced he was relaxing a COVID-19 lockdown as the storm approached, but said a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew would be implemented starting Friday.

"I beg you, do not use this period for hurricane preparation to go socializing and visiting friends or family," Minnis wrote on Twitter. "If you do not need to be out, please, please, STAY AT HOME! We are in the midst of a pandemic and if we do not act responsibly, the consequences could be dire."

As Isaias passed over Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic over the past two days, having not yet reached hurricane strength, it toppled trees, destroyed crops, knocked out power, produced widespread flooding and caused small landslides.

A man died in the Dominican Republic when he was electrocuted by a fallen electrical cable.

The Puerto Rico National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floodwaters, which swept away one woman who remains missing.

Another storm to watch

The National Hurricane Center was also monitoring an area of low pressure that may develop into a tropical cyclone, a rotating storm systems that could strengthen into a tropical storm or hurricane.

Located just east of the Caribbean, it has 60% chance of forming over the next five days and is projected to head northwest and then north.

Another system off the African coast became Tropical Depression No. 10 Friday night but then dissipated Saturday.

The next storm to get a name this season will be called Josephine.

A busy 2020 hurricane season

There have been four other tropical storms so far this month: Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo and Hanna. Other named storms this year have included Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal and Dolly. Tropical Storm Arthur formed in mid-May, making this the sixth straight year that a named storm formed before the official start of hurricane season on June 1.

So far, Hanna has been the only other hurricane of the season, striking Texas late last week as a strong Category 1 storm.

Virtually all estimates for this hurricane season predict an above-average number of storms, due to unusually warm ocean temperatures and global climate factors that are likely to reduce the high-altitude winds that can prevent the formation of hurricanes. On July 8, Colorado State University issued a slightly more pessimistic outlook for hurricane season than its earlier forecast, upping the number of named storms from 19 to 20.

This is a developing story, so check back for updates. Click here to have breaking news alerts sent directly to your inbox.

Eileen Kelley contributed to this report. Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

(c)2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com

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