Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 30 September 2020

Isaias regains hurricane strength heading for Carolinas

The US National Hurricane Centre warned oceanside home dwellers to brace for storm surge up to 5 feet

Large surf is swirled by the wind and captured by a long exposure, while a person stands on the shore as Hurricane Isaias approaches North Myrtle Beach, SC on August 3, 2020. AFP
Large surf is swirled by the wind and captured by a long exposure, while a person stands on the shore as Hurricane Isaias approaches North Myrtle Beach, SC on August 3, 2020. AFP

Coastal residents secured patio furniture, ferry operators completed evacuations on the Outer Banks, and officials passed out sandbags and offered car space in elevated garages Monday as Isaias marched northward, forecast to hit the Carolinas as a minimal hurricane.

The US National Hurricane Centre warned oceanside home dwellers to brace for storm surge up to 5 feet (1.5 metres) and up to 8 inches (20 centimetres) of rain in spots, as Isaias moves up the coast. The Carolinas weren't the only states at risk.

"All those rains could produce flash flooding across portions of the eastern Carolinas and mid-Atlantic, and even in the northeast US," said Daniel Brown, senior hurricane specialist at the US National Hurricane Centre. A tropical storm warning extended all the way up to Maine, where flash flooding was possible in some areas on Wednesday.

Isaias was upgraded again from a tropical storm to a Category 1 hurricane at 8pm EDT. The storm was centered about 60 miles (100 kilometres) south of Myrtle Beach.

Isaias killed two people in the Caribbean and roughed up the Bahamas but remained at sea as it brushed past Florida over the weekend, providing some welcome relief to emergency managers who had to accommodate mask-wearing evacuees in storm shelters. The center of Isaias remained well offshore as it passed Georgia's coast on Monday.

President Donald Trump on Monday described Isaias as "very serious."

"Storm surge and inland flooding are possible and everyone needs to remain vigilant until it passes," Mr Trump said.

Authorities in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, ordered swimmers out of the water to avoid rough surf and strong rip currents. By sundown, power began to flicker at beachfront hotels as Isaias crossed the last bit of warm water in its path as it headed for the US mainland.

Still, in a part of the South Carolina and North Carolina coast that has been at least brushed by seven tropical storms or hurricanes since 2014, residents weren't panicking about this one.

"It's just going to be a lot of wind and high tide," said Mike Fuller, who has lived along the coast for over a decade.

Shops and restaurants appeared quieter than usual for a summertime Monday in North Myrtle Beach, but locals blamed Covid-19 more than Isaias. No businesses were boarding up their windows, although some moved outside furniture inside.

Wayne Stanley and his family came to the city over the weekend from Julian, North Carolina. He's never experienced a hurricane, but said he never considered canceling his family's weeklong vacation either.

"I was pretty scared to start off with," Stanley said Monday. "Then we thought maybe it's not going to be that bad."

Officials in frequently flooded Charleston, South Carolina, handed out sandbags and opened parking garages so residents on the low-lying peninsula could stow their cars above ground.

The centre of Isaias passed about 50 miles (80 kilometres) offshore of Charleston on Monday evening. Forecasters warned earlier of possible major flooding, but the storm passed faster than expected and only about a dozen streets were flooded.

Farther up the coast into North Carolina, the hurricane center predicted storm surges of 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 metres) when Isaias moves onshore.

Updated: August 4, 2020 01:39 PM

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