NC National Guard activated ahead of Isaias, Gov. Cooper says

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper activated up to 150 National Guard members Saturday as Hurricane Isaias weakened slightly to a tropical storm, but was still forecast to hit eastern North Carolina early next week.

“We all need to be prepared for the dangers that Isaias could bring,” Cooper said in a news release. “As we learned with Hurricane Florence, even a category one storm can bring severe impacts, and we should not take this lightly.”

As of Saturday, local officials ordered evacuations for Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands, Ocean Isle Beach and Holden Beach, according to an email from Cooper’s office.

Isaias is forecast to restrengthen into a hurricane before moving up along the Florida coast.

Wind gusts were around 85 mph on Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service said.

On Friday, Cooper declared a state of emergency, which helps state and local officials take extra precautions to protect the public.

In a letter on Friday, Cooper also requested that President Trump declare an emergency for the State of North Carolina.

Forecasters declared a hurricane warning for parts of the Florida coast Friday as Isaias drenched the Bahamas on a track for the U.S. East Coast.

Officials in Florida said they were closing beaches, marinas and parks in Miami-Dade County. Mayor Carlos Giménez said the county had 20 evacuation centers on standby that could be set up with COVID-19 safety measures.

“We still don’t think there is a need to open shelters for this storm, but they are ready,” he said.

Authorities in North Carolina told visitors to leave Ocracoke Island, which was slammed by last year’s Hurricane Dorian, starting Friday; residents and property owners were ordered to leave starting Saturday morning. Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas evacuated people on Abaco who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian as well as people at the eastern end of Grand Bahama.

The hurricane knocked shingles off roofs and tumbled trees as it carved its way through an archipelago still recovering from Dorian’s devastation. Bahamas Power and Light Co. cut off power in certain areas for safety.

Paula Miller, Mercy Corps director for the Bahamas, told The Associated Press that while the islands can normally withstand strong hurricanes, some have been destabilized by the coronavirus pandemic and the damage caused by Dorian.

“With everything not quite shored up, property not secured, home not prepared, even a Category 1 will be enough to set them back,” she said.

The Hurricane Center said heavy rains associated with the storm “may begin to affect South and east-Central Florida beginning late Friday night, and the eastern Carolinas by early next week, potentially resulting in isolated flash and urban flooding, especially in low-lying and poorly drained areas.”

A hurricane warning was in effect from Boca Raton, just north of Miami, about 150 miles north to the Flagler-Volusia county line. A hurricane watch was in effect south of Boca Raton to Hallendale Beach.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that the state was “fully prepared for this and any future storm during this hurricane season,” with stockpiles of personal protective equipment, generators, bottled water and meals ready to be distributed.

But he urged people to have seven days with of food, water and medication ready and said that state-run coronavirus testing sites in the areas where the storm could hit will be closed.

“Our sites, because they’re outdoors with tents, if it were to get 40-, 50-mile-per-hour winds, it would just collapse,” he said. “Safety is paramount for that.”

Miami’s mayor said that social-distancing measures prompted by COVID-19 meant each person in shelters needed to have 40 square feet and no more cafeteria-style dining would be allowed. People who are infected with the new coronavirus and need to evacuate will be isolated in classrooms separate them from the general population, Giménez said.

In Daytona Beach and Polk County, authorities began distributing sandbags and other officials advised people to have emergency provisions at home sufficient for three to seven days.

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