Tropical Storm Isaias regained hurricane strength Monday night as it approached the Carolinas for an expected landfall as forecasters warned of dangerous winds and storm surge.
Isaias had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph as of 8 p.m., the National Hurricane Center said. The wind speed makes it a Category 1 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. By 9 p.m., maximum sustained winds associated with the hurricane increased to around 85 mph.
A hurricane warning was in place for a stretch of coast from the South Santee River in South Carolina to Surf City in North Carolina. The distance between the two points is around 140 miles.
The Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic regions were expected to see around 3 to 6 inches of rainfall, with isolated maximums of 8 inches, according to the hurricane center.
The National Weather Service warned Monday morning that preparations should be rushed to completion.
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Some tropical-storm-force winds were on shore in parts of South Carolina, Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center, said in a video briefing late Monday afternoon.
“All this is going to continue to move northward, bringing torrential rainfall, it’s going to bring storm surge, and of course the tropical-storm-force winds,” he said.
“That’s a nighttime landfall, and that’s particularly dangerous,” because it can make it hard to see flooding and other effects, Graham said, urging people to take caution.
Isaias was expected to make landfall near the border of the Carolinas Monday night. Meteorologists worried the landfall would coincide with the high tide.
Coastal areas north of the Carolinas could also expect possible “flash and urban flooding, high winds, dangerous storm surge, coastal flooding, life-threatening surf, rip currents, and severe thunderstorms with tornadoes to portions of the Eastern U.S.,” the weather service said.
Hurricane #Isaias Update
Isaias has regained strength and is a Category 1 hurricane.
Strong winds, storm surge, heavy rains and isolated tornadoes are all possible over the next few hours.
Now is the time to head indoors and stay indoors. pic.twitter.com/zsQknfjqSe
— Horry County EMD (@HorryEMD) August 3, 2020
About 59 million people were under a tropical storm alert Monday, stretching from Florida to Maine. Most of those areas were also under flash flood watches, as heavy rainfall was predicted.
Tropical storm warnings extended to parts of New Hampshire. “We are taking it seriously and you should too,” state Homeland Security and Emergency Management Director Jennifer Harper said in a statement.
In Horry County, South Carolina, home of Myrtle Beach, a public safety official said that whether the storm is a tropical storm or a hurricane likely will not matter much for the region.
“If it comes in at 70 miles an hour or 75 miles an hour, the impacts will be identical,” Horry County Assistant Administrator for Public Safety Randy Webster said at a news conference Monday.
“We are prepared. We have taken all of the steps that we need to take,” Webster said. No evacuation orders had been issued, but he urged residents to take the storm seriously, adding that a considerable storm surge, with 3 to 5 feet along beachfront areas.
Last week, the storm uprooted trees, destroyed crops and homes and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. One man died in the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floods that swept away one woman, whose body was recovered Saturday.
Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday. Officials there opened shelters for people in the Abaco Islands to help those who have been living in temporary structures since Hurricane Dorian devastated the area, killing at least 70 people in September 2019.