Updated at 4:15 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020
Tropical Storm Isaias is expected to regain hurricane strength by the time it makes landfall later tonight.
Isaias was still a tropical storm at 2 p.m. EDT with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph (110 kph), but it was expected to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane later Monday, with winds of 74 mph (119 kph) or more. Isaias is forecast to strike land in the coming hours along the northern S.C. and southern N.C. coastlines. The center will then move inland over eastern N.C. tonight, according to the latest report from the National Hurricane Center.
A tropical storm warning was extended northward up the U.S. East Coast all the way to mouth of the Merrimack River in New Hampshire. Hurricane warnings have been issued in Pender, Brunswick and New Hanover counties. Much of eastern and central N.C. have received tropical storm warnings.
Isaias — pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs — could bring heavy rains, too — up to 8 inches (20 centimeters) in spots as it moves up the coast, said senior hurricane specialist Daniel Brown.
“All those rains could produce flash flooding across portions of eastern Carolinas and mid-Atlantic, and even in the northeast U.S.," he said.
Meteorologists are increasingly confident that this inundation could be life-threatening. The National Weather Service in Morehead City says there's high risk for dangerous rip currents as the storm makes it way toward North Carolina. There's also potential for power outages, downed trees and damaged buildings.
“It’s going to get pretty windy tonight, particularly along and east of I-95 so be ready for power outages,” meteorologist Nick Petro told WUNC. “Make sure you have plenty of supplies to ride out you know at least a few hours or at least a day without power.”
In a briefing on Monday afternoon, Gov. Roy Cooper issues advice to residents who are told to evacuate their homes. If your receive this order, Cooper says:
- Plan to stay with family or friends.
- If you can't do that, stay at a hotel if you can afford it.
- Visit your county website or 211 for info about state sheltering options.
While evacuation centers should be a last resort (after family/friends or staying at a hotel), all centers are following COVID-19 safety protocols and have PPE on hand. If you are told to evacuate and a center is your only option, don't hesitate to go to one.
Original story posted at 8:33 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020
Isaias was forecast to become a hurricane Monday as it neared landfall in the Carolinas after bands of heavy rain from the tropical storm lashed Florida's east coast.
A state of emergency is in effect for much of North Carolina as the tropical storm approaches.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane warning from South Santee River, South Carolina, to Surf City, North Carolina, in its 5 a.m. advisory. Tropical Storm Isaias had maximum sustained winds of 70 mph and was expected to strengthen into a Category 1 hurricane, with winds of 74 mph or more.
"We are forecasting it to become a hurricane before it reaches the coast this evening," senior hurricane specialist Daniel Brown said. "It's forecast to produce a dangerous storm surge, of 3 to 5 feet in portions of North and South Carolina."
Isaias weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday but still hit Florida with heavy rain and flooding as state officials dealt with surging cases of the coronavirus. Both North and South Carolina are due for up to 6 inches of rain, storm surge and possible tornadoes Monday.
The brunt of the storm is expected to hit the piedmont and coastal plane late Monday and into Tuesday. Officials expect the storm will cause widespread power outages and downed trees across much of the eastern half of the state.
The State Department of Transportation’s ferry division will suspend emergency evacuation operations from Ocracoke Island after Monday’s 10:30 a.m. departure from Ocracoke to Hatteras. That will be the final ferry leaving Ocracoke until Tropical Storm Isaias passes.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper is cautioning residents not to overlook the potential threats of Isaias.
“Over the weekend, the storm turned much more inland, which increases the threat of heavy rain, tornadoes and flash flooding in eastern North Carolina," Cooper said Sunday. "Right now, we expect the heaviest rain along the I-95 corridor, with as much 7 inches in some places.”
The National Hurricane Center said late Sunday afternoon that life-threatening storm surge is possible along the North Carolina coast from Cape Fear to Duck. Residents in those areas were urged to follow advice given by local emergency officials.
Officials also urged residents not to hesitate if local officials urged them to evacuate, despite concerns about COVID-19. Cooper said shelters will be available with screening for the virus. People who have symptoms will be directed to a sheltering option where they can more easily isolate or receive medical attention, Cooper said.
“Don’t let concerns about COVID-19 prevent your prompt evacuation," said Mike Sprayberry, the state's emergency management director.
WUNC's Celeste Gracia, Dave DeWitt, Mitchell Northam, Laura Pellicer, Natalie Dudas-Thomas and the Associated Press contributed to this story.