Hurricane Isaias’ forecast track wobbled east, closer to Florida, early Saturday, as coastal Volusia County was under a hurricane warning.
Hurricane Isaias took aim at Volusia and Flagler counties Saturday, crawling across the Bahamas and churning toward Florida’s coast.
A hurricane warning was in effect for the coasts of both counties into Sunday. When Isaias arrives off the area’s coast, the National Hurricane Centers predicts winds of up to 80 mph, a storm surge of up to 4 feet, and 4 or more inches of rain.
On Saturday, Isaias made landfall on Northern Andros Island of the Bahamas. From there, the hurricance center predicted the storm will hug Florida’s coast, arriving off Volusia and Flagler counties at some point Sunday.
West Volusia, Flagler and St. Johns counties were facing a tropical storm warning, according the 11 a.m. Saturday National Hurricane Center advisory.
The hurricane slowed Saturday to 12 mph, its slowest pace since trackers started following it.
Volusia County’s emergency management director, Jim Judge, said Saturday morning in a telephone interview with The News-Journal preparations were under way to open some emergency shelters, but he didn’t anticipate announcing those openings — and their locations — until Saturday night, past deadline for the newspaper’s Sunday print deadline. Information will be updated throughout the storm at news-journalonline.com.
Our emergency coverage on Hurricane Isaias is being provided free as a public service to our readers. Please support local journalism by subscribing to The Daytona Beach News-Journal.
If opened, emergency shelters would likely open their doors at 8 a.m. Sunday.
"It’s slowed and may lose strength up the coast," Judge said. "If we issue evacuation orders, it would be voluntary."
The slowed pace of Isaias could mean its greatest impact won’t be until Sunday midday or afternoon, although Judge said the forecast "seems to change four or five times a day."
Judge anticipates beaches will be closed on Sunday, and the county is preparing those shelters, with lifeguards being tapped to assist with temperature checks and security, and Volusia County corrections inmates helping to deliver supplies.
While much remains to be learned, Judge said Isaias’ move to the east was an eye-opener.
"Certainly waking up this morning, it’s gotten our attention," he said.
The hurricane also had Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry’s attention.
Asked whether residents are taking Isaias seriously, he said: "Not as seriously as we would like."
"The main thing you want is for folks to be prepared and not overreact, but hurricanes are still the most pronounced danger as it relates to natural disasters facing mankind, and we have to take each of them seriously," Henry said Saturday morning.
Ormond Beach Mayor Bill Partington said city staff and residents there are preparing, but it’s different in 2020.
"Everybody’s just a little beat down, like it’s a malaise," Partington said. "There’s so much going on."
Henry said it’s time for preparation, whether or not Isaias causes a lot of damage, because it is still early in the hurricane season, and more storms are likely to follow. "It’s only likely to get worse from here."
In 2017, Hurricane Irma storm surge flooded the city’s Beach Street/downtown area. Irma ultimately cost Volusia and Flagler counties $451 million in damage, as State Road A1A in Flagler Beach was washed out.
A storm surge watch was in place for Florida’s east coast from Jupiter to near Jacksonville. The watch indicates life-threatening inundation is possible within 48 hours.
That means water could rise more than 1 foot above ground level at the coastline and adjacent waterways, such as the Indian River from New Smyrna Beach south, while peak surge — the combination of storm surge and high tide — was projected by the National Hurricane Center to be as much as between 2 and 4 feet. High tide on Sunday night was expected a little after 8 p.m. Sunday.
Between 2 and 4 inches of rain are expected in the first 24 hours of the storm.
"But that’s not to say that we can’t get a pocket for a certain area that may have up to 6 inches of rain," Judge said during a news conference Friday.
In preparation for the hurricane, Volusia County closed six low-volume beach access ramps— Milsap Road in Ormond Beach; Hartford Avenue and Botefuhr Avenue in Daytona Beach; and Van Avenue, El Portal Street and Emilia Avenue in Daytona Beach Shores. The county’s Facebook page reported a decision will be made later today about the remaining ramps.
The county is considering cutting off all beach vehicle access on Sunday, with the reopening dependent upon the status of more than 700 known turtle nests and conservation poles.
The Volusia County Citizens Information Center has now opened and will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday. Residents can call 866-345-0345 to get questions answered about Isaias.
The storm’s ever-changing path — once predicted to travel north further from the Florida coast — has pushed west, closer to coastal communities such as New Smyrna Beach, Daytona Beach and Flagler Beach.
"We like the wobbles further east," Judge said. "Once the system moves around Cape Canaveral, that’s when we anticipate a little bit more of an easterly jog and then to the north-northeast."
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Saturday that President Trump had approved his request for a pre-landfall emergency declaration for the counties in the path of Isaias. He issued a state of emergency Friday morning for all eastern coastal counties, while Volusia and Flagler counties both announced local states of emergency.
"So all the feeding and sheltering will be eligible for reimbursement through FEMA, which we very much appreciate," DeSantis said at a news conference.
The governor said the hurricane’s movement westward toward Florida, then further east into the Atlantic Ocean is difficult to predict.
"This stuff is all very much in flux and even if the eye of the storm stays off the coast, there of course is going to be impacts," DeSantis said.