Isaias track: 5 p.m. update: Tropical storm warning discontinued for areas south of Sebastian Inlet. Storm surge watch also ended for east coast. Expected to remain a strong tropical storm. It is 65 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral.

Our emergency coverage on the Isaias storm is being provided free as a public service to our readers. Please support local journalism by subscribing to The Palm Beach Post at palmbeachpost.com/subscribenow.


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A nagging Isaias sputtered up the Florida coast Sunday, never living up to its potential but teasing just enough drama to keep the Sunshine State on high alert.


The tropical storm, which had 65 mph winds as it passed Palm Beach County, left behind dishwater skies, bruised beaches and a few thousand FPL customers temporarily in the dark.


Despite forecasts that Isaias would regain minimal hurricane strength as it approached South Florida, it never recovered from a crushing drag Saturday over Andros Island — the largest of the Bahamian Islands.


>>Isaias was a worthy practice run for Palm Beach County


By Sunday, upper-level wind shear had knocked its towering cloud tops off center like a crooked chimney that couldn’t breathe.


While Isaias managed to claw back to 70 mph late in the day, dry Saharan air, which is seasonable for this time of year, added to its unhealthy diet.


"It just pooped out," said AccuWeather meteorologist Brett Rossio about Isaias’ decline into Sunday.


As of 5 p.m., Isaias was 65 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral and 410 miles south of Myrtle Beach with 70 mph winds. It was moving north-northwest at 9 mph.


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The Saharan air layer, or SAL, is a product of the parched Saharan desert and African easterly jet — a river of wind similar to North America’s jet stream that flows east to west, chugging dry air into the main development region through early August.


If this storm had happened in September ... it could have ’been a lot worse’


As Isaias moves north, wind shear and dry air will be less of a factor. While the official NHC forecast is for Isaias to maintain 70 mph winds, there is an opportunity for it to regain hurricane status late Monday into Tuesday, according to the 5 p.m. discussion from NHC.


Rossio said if Isaias had happened closer to the peak of hurricane season in the fertile main development region of the Atlantic it "could have certainly been a lot worse."


>>PHOTOS: Isaias storm slides by Palm Beach County


"If we didn’t have the wind shear and dry air, it could have been a Cat 2 or Cat 3," he said.


Storm surge watches and hurricane warnings were canceled by midday Sunday for much of Florida’s coast. A tropical storm warning was still in effect for areas north of Sebastian Inlet.


Heavy rains forecast from Tropical Storm #Isaias will pose a flash flood threat to a large portion of the U.S. eastern seaboard through mid-week. @NWSWPC pic.twitter.com/F79nDcTV7N

— National Hurricane Center (@NHC_Atlantic) August 2, 2020

In its wake for South Florida, Isaias left roughed up waters and a high risk of rip currents that was expected to last at least through Sunday night.


A coastal flood advisory also was in effect Sunday for Palm Beach County — a concern raised by Isaias but also a return to normal afternoon thunderstorms.


A full moon Monday could exacerbate flooding and beach erosion with higher tides.



The center of Isaias was expected to make its closest approach to Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties from 10 a.m. through 6 p.m. Volusia County was forecast to experience the closest approach early Monday, according to the National Weather Service office in Melbourne.


Jacksonville was no longer in the cone of uncertainty as of 5 p.m. Sunday.


There was a thought early Sunday that Isaias could make a landfall near Cape Canaveral if the track inched west. A landfall is defined as when the center of the storm crosses the coast, not just the eyewall, so it would be close.


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But a burst of thunderstorms forced the storm to jog north, which made a Florida landfall questionable.


"It’s taking a shift to the north a little and will probably just hug the coast but may come very close to Cape Canaveral," Rossio said.


It’s more likely Isaias will make its way onshore in South or North Carolina on Tuesday as a tropical storm with 65 mph winds and up to 75 mph gusts.


"Most of the winds are off to the right of the storm, but by 2 a.m. Monday that central portion of the Space Coast, the center is really close to the coast and that’s when we have to watch these wiggles and wobbles," said NHC Director Ken Graham. "It’s been a lopsided storm."


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The most recent tropical storm to make landfall in Florida during August was 2009’s Claudette. Claudette made landfall near Fort Walton Beach on Aug. 17.


The most recent hurricane to make an August landfall in Florida was 2005’s Katrina, according to Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach. Katrina hit near the border of Broward and Miami-Dade counties on Aug. 25 as a Category 1 storm.


Graham said the northern Bahamas — the same islands battered by Cat 5 Dorian in 2019 — took the brunt of Isaias winds and rains over the weekend. As much as 12 inches of rain may have fallen on the islands, Graham said.


"But we have impacts from the Bahamas to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and up into Maryland and Delaware later this week," Graham said. "It’ an incredible amount of impacts."


By Wednesday Isaias is forecast to reach Maine as a 45 mph tropical storm after scraping along the fringes of the East Coast.


Dealing with a pandemic and a potential storm was a good test run


Emergency managers statewide began to relax Sunday after facing the first test of how they would handle the coronavirus pandemic and a tropical cyclone.


About 200 people stayed in Palm Beach County shelters. None of the evacuees had to be segregated for either being Covid-19 positive or having symptoms, said Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner.


"Covid 19 is not only a challenge for public health, our economy and for getting our schools open, but it certainly continues to be a challenge when we face storms like this," said St. Lucie County Administrator Howard Tipton. "This was more of an exercise than an actual storm event, and we are never disappointed with that."





At 7 a.m. Sunday, gusts as high as 40 mph were measured at Palm Beach International Airport with sustained winds of 30 mph. Rainfall in Palm Beach County was minimal at .10 of an inch at PBIA.


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Until about noon Sunday, Michael Batista, 34, was worried Isaias would thrash the east coast of Florida. Batista, who was at Bryant Park in Lake Worth after Isaias blew through, said he and his family fled Puerto Rico three years ago after Hurricane Maria flooded and damaged his hometown, Toa Baja.


"I kept thinking I just don't want to live through that again," he said.


Cheryel Gallego, who lives near Bryant Park, peaked outside her window repeatedly Sunday morning, worrying winds would pick up at any moment. She wanted to take her 6-year-old Chihuahua mix, Promise, for a walk.


Once she heard the worst — "if that's what you'd call it," she said — had passed, she took Promise out at noon.


"I wasn't too worried because it was just a Category 1," Gallego said. "But, of course, I am relieved now that it's gone."


This storm season is expected to be busy: ’Things are going to definitely ramp up’


While Isaias’ future was more clear Sunday, another system is brewing in the tropical Atlantic that has a less certain fate.


Showers and thunderstorms associated with a tropical storm a few hundred miles east of the Leeward Islands are organizing and have a 60 percent chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the next five days. The system has been dubbed Invest 94 L by the hurricane center.


Tropical Depression 10 off the coast of Africa fizzled on Saturday.


The earliest 10th named storm to form is 2005’s Jose, which became a tropical storm on Aug. 22 before hitting Mexico.


The next name on the 2020 hurricane list is Josephine.


"The main development region of the Atlantic is really heating up fast," Rossio said. "We do anticipate late August and early September that things are going to definitely ramp up."


Palm Beach Post staff writer Lulu Ramadan contributed to this story.


Kmiller@pbpost.com


@Kmillerweather