The last time a hurricane struck the Bahamas, the impacts were catastrophic. Hurricane Dorian stalled over the islands as a Category 5 monster that killed dozens and unleashed a toxic oil spill. Now, the islands are bracing for another hurricane not even a year later as Hurricane Isaias careens toward them.
The storm is currently a Category 1 hurricane with maximum sustained winds at around 80 miles per hour. It’s expected to intensify into a Category 2 as it arrives in force for the islands on Friday into Saturday. While it’s nowhere near the intensity of Dorian, one of the strongest storms to ever form in the Atlantic, it’s still a beast.
The storm surge alone cause seas to rise up to 5 feet in the Bahamas. The region is forecast to receive 4 to 8 inches of rain through Saturday. The Dominican Republic, Haiti, and parts of Cuba could also see rain from Isaias from Friday into the weekend, and the National Hurricane Center said all of these countries could see “life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides” as a result before the storm moves on toward Florida and the Carolinas.
Isaias has already left its mark in other parts of the Caribbean. In Puerto Rico, parts of the island suffered flash flooding and landslides that left more than 400,000 customers lost power after the storm sideswiped the island, offering a reminder the island’s electrical grid is still in a sorry state three years after Hurricane Maria struck. Tens of thousands of homes aren’t safe; many still lack roofs. They certainly can’t withstand another direct hit, according to a recent report from ABC. President Donald Trump approved an emergency declaration for Puerto Rico on Wednesday ahead of the storm reaching the island.
Now, the Bahamas are preparing for the worst. When Hurricane Dorian struck last year, the damage was severe. The entire island of Abaco was essentially flattened. Trees and homes were gone. Access to water and hospitals was still an issue six months since that hurricane hit. The economy was suffering. Barely six months since then, the work to recover may have to start over again.
The storm will likely have some impact on the East Coast early next week, though the forecast track is still developing. NHC has advised people in the Southeast to monitor the storm, and parts of Florida already have tropical storm warnings in place. The state has also seen coronavirus cases skyrocket, adding another layer to the risk of landfall or even an indirect hit.
Isaias is the latest in a freak series of storms that have roiled the Atlantic in rapid succession of what was already forecast to be a busy season. This hurricane season has proceeded at a breakneck pace, with Isaias being the earliest ninth storm on record. The storm follows Hurricane Hanna, the earliest eighth storm on record, which whipped through the Gulf of Mexico last week and hit Texas as the first hurricane of the season. Colorado State hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach also noted on Twitter that this the first time in 169 years of record-keeping there have been two hurricanes in the last week of July, adding another piece of hurricane trivia to the 2020 season.
Meanwhile, farther east in the Atlantic, the National Hurricane Center is monitoring two other potential formations, one of which has a 20% chance of becoming a cyclone in the next two days. Hurricane season is here. And if 2020 is any indication of what to expect, prepare for the worst.