What to Know
- Tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 345 miles from the center
- The system could approach Florida by Friday night; Stormy conditions throughout the weekend may happen
- As of 11 p.m., Isaias has winds of 50 mph and sits about 155 miles south of Ponce, Puerto Rico
Heavy rains drenched the eastern Caribbean as a weather system strengthened into Tropical Storm Isaias late Wednesday while it passed south of Puerto Rico and headed for Hispaniola carrying the threat of flooding and landslides.
The 11 p.m. advisory shows Isaias has winds of 50 mph and sits about 155 miles south of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and 265 miles southeast of Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, moving west-northwest at 20 mph.
On the forecast track, the center of Isaias will move over Hispaniola on Thursday and near the Southeastern Bahamas by early Friday. Some weakening is likely when the center moves over Hispaniola, with some strengthening expected by Friday.
The weather in Florida starting on Saturday may be stormy, or it may not. The chance for hurricane winds as of the 11 p.m. Wednesday NHC forecast stands at 4% for Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, 3% for Miami, 2% for Homestead and less than 1% for Key West.
A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for Puerto Rico, Central Bahamas, southeast parts of the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, Vieques, Culebra, the U.S. and British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Saba, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten as well as parts of the Dominican Republic and the north coast of Haiti.
A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the Northwestern Bahamas.
President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration request from Puerto Rico's governor, who also activated the National Guard.
Officials in Puerto Rico expressed concern about the potential for landslides and flooding and noted the U.S. territory is struggling with a spike in coronavirus cases while also still recovering from 2017's devastating Hurricane Maria and a string of earthquakes earlier this year that damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes in the island's south.
At a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Wanda Vázquez predicted the storm would cause power outages. Puerto Rico's power grid was destroyed by Maria and the rebuilt system is fragile and susceptible to failures.
Earlier on Tuesday, the island's power company and union leaders said electricity failed for more than 450,000 customers when a plant was knocked offline for unknown reasons.
On Wednesday, the director of Puerto Rico's Electric Power Authority told WKAQ radio that he believed it was either sabotage or negligence. However, the head of transmission and distribution disputed those comments and told Radio Isla that it was too soon to make any conclusions.
Another outage occurred Wednesday after at least one transformer exploded in the capital of San Juan, leaving more than 33,000 customers without power.
The governor said that more than 300 shelters across the island were prepared to receive people if needed and that more than 130,000 face masks were available.
“We've lived through several emergencies at one time,” Vázquez said. “I want you to remain calm.”