Tropical Storm Isaias: Americans should start preparing for 'winds, heavy rainfall and storm surge,' hurricane center says

Tropical storm and hurricane watches could be issued for South Florida today

The U.S. should prepare for “impacts from winds, heavy rainfall and storm surge” as Tropical Storm Isaias heads along its forecasted path toward the East Coast, the U.S. National Hurricane Center warned Thursday.

The storm, as of Thursday afternoon, was battering Puerto Rico with sustained winds of up to 60 mph and was about 85 miles southeast of Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic.

“There is a risk of impacts from winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surge along portions of the U.S. East Coast beginning this weekend in Florida and spreading northward to the Carolinas and southern mid-Atlantic states early next week,” the Hurricane Center said in an advisory, adding that “tropical storm or hurricane watches could be issued for portions of South Florida later today.”

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Isaias will “produce heavy rains and potentially life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides across Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, northern Haiti, the Turks and Caicos, and the Bahamas” while making its way toward the U.S.

Yet “due to Isaias interacting with Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), the details of the track and intensity forecast remain uncertain and it is too soon to determine the magnitude and location of these potential impacts,” the center added.

The storm so far has knocked out power to more than 400,000 clients across Puerto Rico and left about 150,000 customers without water, according to government officials. Widespread flooding and some small landslides also were reported there.

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In the Dominican Republic, Isaias toppled trees as government workers in some impoverished neighborhoods used loudspeakers to urge people to evacuate ahead of the worst of the storm. Police also arrested a handful of surfers in the capital of Santo Domingo accused of violating government storm warnings.

Isaias was moving northwest at 20 mph Thursday afternoon. Its center was expected to move over Hispaniola later in the day, and near the southeastern Bahamas by early Friday.

Tropical storm warnings were issued for the Turks and Caicos Islands, portions of the Dominican Republic, Haiti and the Bahamas.

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Isaias is expected to produce 4 to 8 inches of rain across Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and northern Haiti, with isolated maximum totals of 10 inches.

The Bahamas, and Turks and Caicos Islands could see 4 to 8 inches of rain while Cuba could see 1 to 2 inches, with isolated maximum totals of 4 inches.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.