SEBRING — While people on the east coast of Florida prepare for Hurricane Isaias, Highlands County residents can breathe a sigh of relief barring any major changes to the storm’s track. The National Hurricane Center 11 a.m. Advisory shows Isaias as being a coastal event.
Iasias slowed down on Saturday to 12 mph and heading northwest. The maximum sustained winds were 80 mph and was forecast to stay a weak Category 1 storm. Hurricane force winds (74 mph+) extended 25 miles from the center of the storm and tropical force winds (39-74 mph) extended 115 miles from the center of the storm.
By Saturday afternoon, the county started seeing some breezy weather. Meteorologist Stephen Shiveley from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed some 20 mph gusts early Saturday afternoon. Shiveley said the effects from Hurricane Isaias would be felt about 8 a.m. today as the storm would be just about parallel to Lake Okeechobee. Lake Okeechobee is under a Tropical Storm warning and could expect tropical storm conditions about 1-2 a.m.
The east coast of Florida’s peninsula from Miami to Jacksonville was put under a hurricane warning. Highlands County was not under a Tropical Storm Watch and was not in the “cone of error” on Saturday.
A press release form the Highlands County Emergency Operations Center said they were at a Level 2 Virtual Activation and were in contact with the National Weather Service and state Department of Emergency Management. There were no shelters open in Highlands County on Saturday. Lake Okeechobee did open shelters on Saturday.
Highlands County is in a good position with this storm because it sits on the west side of Isaias. Most of the rain and winds are on the east side of the storm. Shiveley expected 1-2 inches of rain in the western part of the county and possibly more on the eastern areas. More could be expected if a stray feeder band came across the county.
There is a 20% or less chance the eastern half of the county will experience tropical storm force winds. The chance is much lower to the western half — only 7-8% to feel tropical storm force winds.
The storm could still wobble and Shiveley said a wobble of 5-10 miles east or west could make the difference in a Florida landfall.
The meteorologist said today’s weather will be similar to our normal summer storms, possibly with less rain but more breezy with cloud cover.