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Southeastern US put on alert as new tropical storm forms

Tropical Storm Isaias formed late Wednesday in the Caribbean. The storm is forecast to approach the U.S. mainland this weekend. [CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Gaston Gazette/TNS)

The above-active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season continued late Wednesday with Tropical Storm Isaias (pronounced ees-ah-EE-as) forming south of Puerto Rico.

As of 11 p.m. Wednesday, the storm was about 150 miles south of Puerto Rico, moving 20 mph west-northwest, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.

The National Hurricane Center forecast the storm to move over Hispaniola — the island home to Haiti and the Dominican Republic — and approach Florida.

But the path and strength of the storm remains fluid as it approaches the U.S. mainland, prompting the hurricane center to recommend residents in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas to stay alert and pay attention to storm updates.

Most models show the storm turning north as it approaches the Gulf Stream off Florida and turning northward toward Georgia and the Carolinas.

Isaias is the earliest “I-named” storm on record, besting Hurricane Irene which formed on Aug. 7 in 2005. That also was the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record.

Hurricane Hanna, which slammed into south Texas and northern Mexico over the weekend as a Category 1 storm, also was the earliest “H-named” storm on record.

The new storm threat comes as emergency officials are already struggling to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, which has hit many Southern states — particularly Florida — particularly hard. Officials fear the pandemic could make coastal residents more reluctant to leave their homes and seek safety in shelters, where social distancing could be especially difficult.

Water temperatures off the Eastern Seaboard also are sizzling – 86 degrees off Savannah, Ga., and Charleston, S.C.; 87 degrees at Wrightsville Beach, N.C.; and 86 degrees off Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks as of Wednesday. Storms gain strength from warm waters and can power up quickly over a hot ocean.

This isn’t the first storm to menace the East Coast this 2020 hurricane season, which started June 1 – with two of those tropical systems coming before the season officially began.

In late May, Tropical Storm Bertha formed off Charleston, before moving inland into central North Carolina.

Bertha came a week after Tropical Storm Arthur brought heavy rains and winds to much of the North Carolina coast, hitting parts of the Outer Banks particularly hard.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has warned coastal communities to prepare for an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, with up to 19 named storms, of which up to 10 could become hurricanes. An average hurricane season sees 12 named storms, six of which are hurricanes.

Hurricane season runs through the end of November.


© 2020 Gaston Gazette