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Isaias Live Updates: Fires, Flooding and Tornadoes as Storm Charges Over Land

2020-08-04 14:23:48
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Isaias is bringing the threat of tornadoes as it barrels north.

Isaias slammed the Atlantic Coast overnight with storm surges and winds as fast as 85 miles per hour, spawning tornadoes and leaving a trail of fires and hundreds of thousands of people without power.

The storm, which made landfall on Monday night in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., as a Category 1 hurricane, weakened as it pushed through North Carolina and Virginia on Tuesday morning. Still, forecasters warn that Isaias will bring powerful winds and heavy rains as it continues marching north toward New York and New Jersey and into New England.

At least one person was killed after a tornado touched down in Bertie County, N.C., and caused significant damage to a neighborhood there, the authorities said.

The National Hurricane Center warned early Tuesday of life-threatening storm surge flooding along North Carolina’s coast and nearby waterways, adding that widespread, sustained tropical-storm force winds and gusts would affect much of the Mid-Atlantic coast through the day.

Officials said that the storm’s rapid pace, moving 33 m.p.h. as of Tuesday morning, stood to help limit river flooding and allowed the authorities to mobilize swiftly in assessing the toll.

“All in all, this storm got in, got out pretty quickly,” Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina said in an interview on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday. Because of that, he added, the damage was not “as great as it could have been.”

Tornadoes had already landed in parts of northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia overnight, the center said. Tornado threats would continue north along the coast and into New England overnight. The storm was projected to pass close to Philadelphia around 2 p.m., and the New York City region was under a tornado watch until 4 p.m.

Heavy rainfall was already battering parts of the East Coast on Tuesday morning, and Isaias could cause flash flooding around much of the Mid-Atlantic region, the center said, with “potentially life-threatening urban flooding” possible in Washington, Baltimore and other cities along and just west of I-95.

Officials in North Carolina and Virginia were working early Tuesday to assess the damage, which included reports of downed trees, damaged buildings and coastal flooding. The storm had delivered only a glancing blow to Florida as it skirted the coast there, with officials expressing relief that it failed to cause the level of damage they had feared. Georgia was largely spared as well.

Forecasters warned that Isaias, which is written as Isaías in Spanish and pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs, remained dangerous as it hurtled toward the northeast. Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey declared a state of emergency for the entire state that began at 5 a.m., and he also closed state offices.

A tropical storm warning remained in effect as far north as Martha’s Vineyard. Forecasters expected the storm to gradually weaken as it advances along the mid-Atlantic states during the day on Tuesday before crossing into Canada at night.

Homes are destroyed and at least one person killed by a tornado in North Carolina.

The authorities in Bertie County, N.C., were assessing the devastation caused by one tornado caused by Isaias that ripped through a neighborhood overnight.

Governor Cooper said in a television appearance on Tuesday that that one person was killed and “a number of people” were injured after the tornado hit a mobile home park in Windsor, a town in the northeast corner of the state.

The extent of the damage remained unclear. “We are asking that our community allow us time to gather and properly verify more information from the various law enforcement agencies and first responders still working to secure the area,” local officials wrote in a post on the county government’s Facebook page.

Officials were also trying to take stock of the aftermath across the state. “We’ve had a number of tornadoes,” Mr. Cooper, a Democrat, said on “Good Morning America.” “I’m not sure of the count yet.”

The storm is knocking out power over wide areas.

With storm-force winds extending out 140 miles from its center and sustained winds of 70 m.p.h. near its core, Isaias is disrupting electricity service to hundreds of thousands of customers in its path.

As of 8 a.m. Eastern time, about 360,000 utility customers in eastern North Carolina and another 300,000 in Virginia, mainly in the Tidewater region, had lost power, according to Poweroutage.us, a website that tracks and aggregates reports from utilities. There were also scattered outages in Maryland.

Storms can disrupt power in a number of ways. Strong wind gusts can sometimes snap cables and poles directly, though utilities try to build and maintain their infrastructure to be wind-resistant. Often the culprit is a broken tree limb or debris from a building that strikes a power line, or a skidding vehicle hitting a pole. Lightning strikes can damage equipment, and so can wind-driven rain or flash floodwaters.

Downed power lines can remain dangerous even when the lights nearby seem to be out, and wet conditions add to the danger. Utility companies in the region like Dominion Energy warn the public to stay at least 30 feet away, and not to attempt to move them.

Duke Energy, a major utility in North and South Carolina, said on Twitter that it had more than 2,200 workers prepared to respond to power disruptions.

Loss of off-site power caused one reactor at the Brunswick nuclear power plant in Southport, N.C., to automatically shut down overnight, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission notice. The plant’s other reactor was unaffected. The report said safety systems worked as intended and the impact of the shutdown was minimal.

New York may get less rain but more wind.

The projected path of the storm has shifted slightly westward on Tuesday, giving New York City and the surrounding areas a slight reprieve from the heaviest expected rainfall.

But the shift has also increased the chance of severe weather in the region, including the possibility of “weak, brief” tornadoes, said Matthew Wunsch, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. A tornado watch is in effect until 4 p.m. for New York City, Long Island, much of New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.

Even with the worst rain falling to the west, the New York City area could still see some heavy bands of rainfall pass through in the morning and afternoon, Mr. Wunsch said. Winds will pick up in the afternoon, with sustained speeds of 35 to 45 m.p.h. and gusts over 60 m.p.h., he said, and coastal flooding is expected in the evening and through tomorrow.

Mr. Wunsch said the fast-moving storm was likely to inflict far less damage overall than Hurricane Sandy did in October 2012. “Sandy was such a large-scale event, and it happened over such a long period of time,” he said. “It was just a different beast altogether.”

Even so, officials in New York City were bracing for the bad weather and urging residents to be vigilant for wind, rain and power outages. Beaches were closed on Tuesday.

Gov. Phillip D. Murphy of New Jersey declared a state of emergency and asked people to stay off the roads and to secure loose furniture and other items that could be blown around by the high winds

Storm shelters in North Carolina, where Hurricane Isaias made landfall late Monday, prepared to deal with a dual threat from severe weather and the coronavirus by screening for symptoms of the virus and socially distancing people who took shelter.

“Our state has weathered our fair share of storms in recent years,” Gov. Roy Cooper said on Sunday. “We know how to plan, prepare and respond when it’s over. Nothing about that has changed, but this time, we’re going to have to do it with a mask on.”

The state’s Department of Public Safety also urged residents to bring their own blankets and bedding, and asked people to stay at motels or with relatives if possible. Shelters will serve meals in sealed containers rather than in typical serving lines.

Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey also urged residents to take shelter, but not to break social distancing guidelines by staying with large groups of friends or relatives.

“I’m not a fan of hurricane parties,” Mr. Murphy said on Monday, referring to the events that became something of a tradition in Florida during minor storms. “If it’s a hurricane party, you’re inside. It just doesn’t make sense, folks. It doesn’t end well. And we know that.”

Reporting was contributed by Johnny Diaz, Patrick J. Lyons, Rick Rojas, Daniel Victor, Will Wright, Alan Yuhas and Mihir Zaveri


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