SEBRING — Isaias has been upgraded to a hurricane and is being forecast to remain a Category 1 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center’s update Friday morning. Highlands County is not quite out of the woods and will start feeling the effects of Hurricane Isaias by noon Saturday, according to Meteorologist Tony Hurt from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Hurt said the extreme eastern edge of the county (closest to Brighton and Okeechobee) will get more of the effects than the rest of the county.
“By noon, you may feel an uptick in winds,” Hurt said. “There is a 25% or less chance for tropical storm winds, which are 39 mph sustained.”
According to Hurt, if there was a significant change to the forecast in the next 24 hours, an increase in winds and thunderstorms would likely occur.
Highlands County is on the drier side (west) of the storm. Rainfall is expected to be around 1-3 inches and in some places could be 2-4 inches. Hurt said the rain should be well absorbed. As always, he recommends, using caution while driving on roads that are under water.
Lake Okeechobee is under a Tropical Storm Watch, which means conditions are expected for tropical storm winds within 36 hours. Hurt advised against any boating or lake activities this weekend on Lake Okeechobee. Beach activities on the east coast should be postponed as well.
The system is moving in a general northwest direction at 16 mph, slightly down from Thursday’s 23 mph. The sustained winds are 75 mph, making the storm a minimum Category 1. However, it is expected to strengthen with over 90 mph. Winds, that make it a strong Category 1.
The storm’s projected path would bring it close to the east coast of Florida, then skirting up the Atlantic’s east coast. A Hurricane watch has been put out for the area north of Deerfield Beach to the Volusia County line. A tropical storm warning has been issued from north of Ocean Reef to Sebastian Inlet.
“This is not the best organized storm,” Hurt said. “Hurricanes like to be vertically stacked to be the most effective versions of themselves. This storm is going through some wind shear in the upper level atmosphere.”
Governor Ron DeSantis gave an update Thursday urging folks to keep an eye on the storm and gave updates on the state government’s precautions. He said the state is ready for the storms of this season, even in the midst of a pandemic.
DeSantis said the Agency for Health Care Administration has made sure all nursing homes and assisted living facilities – including the newly formed 21 COVID facilities – are 100% covered with generators on their sites. Shelters were prepared with COVID-19 “kits” with hand sanitizers and masks.
“2020 now has the earliest named storms (at least tropical storm strength) for names beginning with the letters C, E, F, G, H, and now I. Next up is Jose – whose record earliest date is Aug.22, set back in 2005,” Hurt said. “Given the activity experienced thus far this season, in addition to signs of continued activity, I’d say we stand a good chance of establishing a new record for the letter J as well.”
Hurt shared another insight for this storm and the 2020 season.
“Tropical Storm Isaías is the first tropical storm to be named in the eastern Caribbean (east of Jamaica) since Tropical Storm Rafael in 2012, which would eventually go on to become a hurricane while moving north in the open Atlantic,” he said. “There have been a few storms named just prior to reaching the eastern Caribbean or just after departing it, although Isaías marks the first such occasion of one being named in nearly eight years.”
• Isaias has been causing some tongue twisting on the pronunciation. There are apparently two ways to pronounce the name and the NHC is using “ees-ah-EE-ahs.” According to ohbabynames.com, the Spanish form of the Hebrew name name means “God is salvation.”
• Isaías formed on July 29, ahead of the previous earliest ninth named storm, Irene, which formed on Aug. 7, 2005.
• On average, the ninth named storm (I) typically doesn’t form until Oct. 4.
• Isaías is the fifth named storm to form in July. This ties the record of five storms for the month, which was set back in 2005.