SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Forecasters declared a hurricane warning for parts of the Florida coast Friday as Hurricane Isaias drenched the Bahamas on a track for the U.S. East Coast.
Florida officials said they were closing beaches, marinas and parks in Miami-Dade County beginning Friday night. Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the county had 20 evacuation centers on standby that could be set up with covid-19 safety measures.
"We still don't think there is a need to open shelters for this storm, but they are ready," he said.
Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Oracoke Island, which was slammed by last year's Hurricane Dorian, starting tonight. Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas evacuated people in Abaco who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian, as well as people living on the eastern end of Grand Bahama.
Isaias had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph Friday afternoon and was expected to strengthen during the night, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said. The storm was centered about 195 miles south-southeast of Nassau in the Bahamas and was moving northwest at 15 mph.
The hurricane knocked shingles off roofs in the Bahamian island of San Salvador as it carved its way through an archipelago still recovering from Dorian's devastation. Bahamas Power and Light Co. cut off power in certain areas for safety.
Paula Miller, Mercy Corps director for the Bahamas, said that while the islands can normally withstand strong hurricanes, some have been destabilized by the pandemic and the damage caused by Dorian.
"With everything not quite shored up, property not secured, homes not prepared, even a Category 1 will be enough to set them back," she said.
The Hurricane Center said heavy rains "may begin to affect South and east-Central Florida beginning late Friday night, and the eastern Carolinas by early next week, potentially resulting in isolated flash and urban flooding, especially in low-lying and poorly drained areas."
A hurricane warning was in effect from Boca Raton, just north of Miami, about 150 miles north to the Volusia/Brevard County Line. A hurricane watch was in effect from Volusia/Brevard to the Flagler/Volusia County Line and from south of Boca Raton to Hallendale Beach.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state was "fully prepared for this and any future storm during this hurricane season," with stockpiles of personal protective equipment, generators, bottled water and meals ready to be distributed.
But he urged people to have seven days worth of food, water and medication ready and said state-run coronavirus testing sites in the areas where the storm could hit will be closed.
"Our sites, because they're outdoors with tents, if it were to get 40-, 50-mph winds, it would just collapse," he said. "Safety is paramount for that."
Miami's mayor said social-distancing measures meant each person in shelters needed to have 40 square feet and no more cafeteria-style dining would be allowed. People who are infected with the new coronavirus and need to evacuate will be isolated in classrooms, Gimenez said.
In Daytona Beach and Polk County, authorities began distributing sandbags and officials advised people to have emergency provisions at home sufficient for three to seven days.
A hurricane warning was in effect in the Bahamas for Andros Island, New Providence, Eleuthera, Abacos Islands, Berry Islands, Grand Bahama, Bimini, Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, Mayaguana, Ragged Islands, Cat Island, the Exumas, Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador.
"Continue to hunker down," said Trevor Basden, director of the Bahamas meteorology department.
Prime Minister Hubert Minnis relaxed a coronavirus lockdown as a result of the impending storm, but imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. He said supermarkets, pharmacies, gas stations and hardware stores would be allowed to remain open as long as weather permitted.
The prime minister urged young people to stay safe from the approaching storm and to respect social distancing measures.
"Please do not engage in hurricane or covid parties," he said. "It can be devastating."