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Isaias downgrades to tropical storm ahead of skimming Florida’s coastline

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July 31 (UPI) — Final preparations were being made along Florida’s Atlantic coast Saturday as the state braced for its first encounter from a hurricane this season.

But as the storm approached the Sunshine State, forecasters said Isaias weakened to a tropical storm on Saturday afternoon with winds dropping to 70 mph and looked ragged on satellite as the storm emerged over the Florida Straits.

Hurricane watches and warnings were in effect ahead of Isaias’ expected arrival later Saturday.

At 8 p.m. EDT Saturday, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said the tropical storm was located 100 miles southeast of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The storm was expected to continue its unwelcomed stay as it comes within 25 miles of the Florida coast before it tracks farther north along the East Coast.

Hurricane warnings were in effect Saturday night for Boca Raton to the Volusia/Flagler County Line in Florida and for Bimini, the Berry Islands, and Grand Bahama Island in the Bahamas.

Isaias made landfall around 11 a.m. Eastern Time Saturday on the northern part of Andros Island in the Bahamas, NHC reported. The storm’s maximum sustained winds had fluctuated between 80 and 85 mph throughout the morning, before the storm weakened a bit due to its interaction with land. Its forward speed had also slowed as it crept along at around 12 mph, down from as much as 18 mph on Friday.

The storm came within 40 miles west-southwest of Nassau, the capital city of the Bahamas Saturday, after leaving behind scenes of flooding in Puerto Rico late in the week.

“People are doing the best they can to prepare, but a lot of businesses still have not fully repaired their roofs or their structures” since devastating Hurricane Dorian struck in 2019, Miller said. “Even a lower level storm could really set them back.”

The NHC said preparations to protect life and property in Florida “should be rushed to completion.”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in every coastal county of Florida’s Atlantic Coast, stretching from Miami-Dade to Nassau counties, on Friday in preparation for the storm. The governor also sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting a pre-landfall emergency declaration.

On Saturday morning, DeSantis noted on Twitter that the president had approved the request. “This will help our state respond quickly to any impacts from the storm,” he wrote.

“While current projections have the eye of Isaias remaining at sea, the situation remains fluid and can change quickly,” DeSantis said at a press conference on Friday. The Florida division for emergency management created new guidance on opening shelters amid the pandemic should they become necessary, he added. DeSantis called on Floridians to remain vigilant and heed warnings.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez said Friday that 20 storm shelters were on standby to be opened.

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