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Isaias weakens; may strengthen on path to virus-hit Florida

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and weakened to a tropical storm as it churned toward the Florida coast, whe…
By DÁNICA COTO and CURT ANDERSON
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and weakened to a tropical storm as it churned toward the Florida coast, where it still threatened to complicate efforts to contain the coronavirus in a hot spot.
The storm, which is expected to regain hurricane strength as it nears Florida, is piling another burden on communities already hard-hit by other storms and sickness.
Florida authorities closed beaches, parks and virus testing sites. Though officials do not expect to have to evacuate people, they wrestled with how to prepare shelters where people can seek refuge from the storm if necessary, while safely social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.
“The most important thing we want people to do now is remain vigilant,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Authorities in North Carolina ordered the evacuation of Ocracoke Island, which was slammed by last year’s Hurricane Dorian. Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas opened shelters for people in Abaco island to help those who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian devastated the area, killing at least 70 people.
Isaias — pronounced ees-ah-EE-ahs — had maximum sustained winds of near 70 miles per hour (110 kilometers per hours) around 5 p.m. Saturday, a decline from earlier in the day, the U. S. National Hurricane Center said. It is expected to regain strength as it heads over warm water toward Florida.
The center of the storm is forecast to approach the southeast coast of Florida early Sunday morning and then travel along the state’s east coast throughout the day. It is expected to regain hurricane strength overnight as it nears Florida.
Despite the approaching storm, NASA says the return of two astronauts aboard a SpaceX capsule is still on track for Sunday afternoon. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are preparing to make the first splashdown return in 45 years, after two months docked at the International Space Station. They are aiming for the Gulf of Mexico just off the Florida Panhandle, and flight controllers are keeping close watch on the storm.

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