Isaias is expected to pinwheel its way up the shoreline on Sunday to Daytona Beach, then begin to veer away from Florida.
Isaias choked on dry air and was thrashed by hostile winds late Saturday, losing its hurricane celebrity, but a comeback was possible overnight and officials warned a strong tropical storm can still pack a wallop.
The climatologically premature system struggled to find its center after roughing up Andros Island in the Bahamas but remained a brawny 70 mph tropical storm.
Isaias’ track shimmied east and west Saturday, keeping Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast in the cone of uncertainty, but moving the center of the storm just off the coast. It is still expected to pinwheel its way up the shoreline to Daytona Beach where it will begin to swoop around the edge of the Bermuda High and away from Florida.
But not away from the U.S.
Isaias is expected to make landfall as a strong tropical storm in North Carolina early Tuesday and stay glued to the coast through Maine.
It’s a storm the Sunshine State could be dealing with through Monday, but the Eastern Seaboard will feel through at least mid-week.
National Weather Service meteorologists in Miami said Isaias was wilting late Saturday afternoon, but that coastal residents from about West Palm Beach through the Treasure Coast should prepare for a worst-case scenario of winds between 74 and 110 mph. Inland areas east of Lake Okeechobee could feel winds between 58 to 73 mph.
The official National Hurricane Center forecast is for Isaias to reform and then remain a weak hurricane through Monday.
"A little wiggle or wobble can put the strongest winds onshore," said Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center. "It’s a large storm and we have a ways to go."
President @realDonaldTrump has approved my request for a pre-landfall emergency declaration for the counties in the path of Hurricane #Isaias. This will help our state respond quickly to any impacts from the storm.— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) August 1, 2020
Still, emergency managers tried to put the Cat 1 storm in perspective, not minimizing its prowess, but asking people not to panic or hoard supplies as in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.
"Folks, take a deep breath here," said Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. "This is not a Category 5 hurricane. This is a wake-up call. This will not be the last storm coming here. You don’t need to take everything off the shelves, but plan ahead of time."
Good morning- here are the Key Messages for Saturday morning, August 1 for Hurricane Isaias. The latest NHC forecast is at https://t.co/tW4KeFW0gB and US local weather information is at https://t.co/SiZo8ohZMN. pic.twitter.com/kCWeFwqjDW— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 1, 2020
As of 8 p.m., Isaias was about 100 miles southeast of Fort Lauderdale with sustained winds of 70 mph. It was moving northwest at 9 mph — its slowest pace since being recognized as a potential threat by the National Hurricane Center on Tuesday.
Isaias’ tropical storm-force winds have a reach of 105 miles.
That stretch means that even areas outside the cone, including closer to Central Florida, could feel some impacts from Isaias, especially if it tracks to the left side of the cone closer to the center of the state.
Hurricanes move outside the cone about 30 percent of the time.
National Weather Service meteorologists in Tampa noted that there is a "slight chance" of inland counties, including Highlands and Polk, of experiencing gusty winds and heavy rain beginning Saturday night.
With the forward speed throttling down, Isaias’ outer bands began lashing Palm Beach County Saturday evening and were expected to linger through midday Sunday.
On the forecast track, the center of the storm will be off the coast of Palm Beach County near sunrise Sunday with 75 mph winds and 90 mph gusts.
By 8 p.m. Sunday, the center of the storm is forecast to be approaching Daytona Beach, when it will then start to move away from shore. Although Jacksonville remained in the cone of uncertainty early Saturday, the center of Isaias was forecast to stay farther off the coast.
"The threat is really beginning to level off since yesterday when the forecast track and projections were concerning to South Florida to say the least," said NWS Miami Meteorologist in Charge Pablo Santos.
While Isaias had weakened to 70 mph winds Saturday afternoon, the NHC said some strengthening was expected as it crossed the Florida Straits.
"This stuff is all still very much in flux," said Gov. Ron DeSantis early Saturday about the track of the hurricane. "Even if the eye stays off the coast, there of course is going to be impacts when you are talking about hurricane or tropical storm winds."
DeSantis said President Donald Trump approved a request for a federal disaster declaration, allowing for federal assistance if needed. He said 25 shelter kits with coronavirus protective gear for up to 400 people each for 96 hours were distributed to county emergency managers.
"It’s a really unique time in Florida’s history," DeSantis noted.
Isaias’ ascent to hurricane status is another record-breaker for 2020. Just eight hurricane seasons since 1966 have had two or more hurricanes by July 31. It also broke the record for the earliest "I"-named storm, beating 2005′s Irene, which formed on Aug. 7. Climatologically, the "I"-named storm doesn’t typically arrive until Oct. 4.
Santos said the chance for Isaias to rapidly intensify over the warm Gulf Stream that parallels Florida’s coast are slim.
While warm waters are fuel for hungry storms, there’s more to it than that, he said.
"That’s just one factor that is conducive for rapid intensification," Santos said about the warm water. "It’s very hard for a storm to do something like that with the upper-level shear it is facing."