ORLANDO — As Florida’s daily death toll from the coronavirus pandemic keeps increasing, the state is now facing another major challenge: the possibility of a hurricane striking the coast very early in the season.
Right now it’s called Hurricane Isaias. The National Hurricane Center reported that Tropical Storm Isaias had strengthened into a Category 1 Hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour. The National Hurricane Center also predicted Hurricane Isaias would intensify into a Category 2 Hurricane as it approached the Florida Peninsula and the Atlantic Coast. Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on Friday afternoon declaring a state of emergency in 19 Florida counties, including Brevard, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia.
DeSantis warned that the storm will definitely impact the state, particularly the coast.
What Did The Governor Say About Preparations for the Storm?
“While we can’t be certain of the exact track of the storm, and we certainly can’t be sure about the intensity it will ultimately reach, we do expect to see impacts to the State of Florida, even if the storm remains off our shore which is the current forecast,” DeSantis noted.
He did urge Floridians to take precautions now, including keeping up with official updates, having a plan in place in the event anyone needs to evacuate their home, and having a seven day supply of food, water and medicine.
And the governor also noted that the state’s ongoing battle against COVID-19 wouldn’t get halted in the meantime. Florida has become one of the hardest hit states in the nation by the coronavirus pandemic; the state set four single-day records this week for the most deaths reported in a 24-hour period. On Thursday, there were 253 new deaths from COVID-19 that got reported, and on Friday, the number rose to 257 deaths. Florida health officials also reported a total of 461,379 cases of the virus on Thursday, an increase of 9,956 over the previous day.
On Friday, the governor announced a new initiative called One Goal One Florida, designed to unite all Florida residents by urging them to work together in the fight against COVID-19.
“COVID-19 has been a significant challenge for all Floridians but I’m 100% confident we can, and will, overcome this challenge,” he said. “To that end, I’m asking all Floridians to join me in this important effort – One Goal One Florida.”
What Is One Goal One Florida?
DeSantis said he’s now asking all Floridians to follow four guidelines:
- Do what’s needed to protect the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions;
- Practice proper hygiene, including frequent hand washing;
- Practice social distancing by avoiding crowded places;
- Wear a mask anytime you’re in close contact with others.
“I know the past few months have been difficult,” the governor said. “Our lives have been captivated – and in many ways turned upside down by something we can’t see – can’t smell – can’t taste or touch. Some have lost a loved one. That’s painful. No words do it justice.”
But he added that the state would “continue to contend with the virus, but we will not be defined by it.”
The state did close some of its local COVID-19 testing sites on Thursday as a precaution due to the storm.
As for Isaias, it was a tropical storm as it crossed Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, leaving thousands of people without power. Isaias strengthened into a Category 1 hurricane late Thursday, with maximum sustained winds of 80 mph.
To learn more, visit Florida Disaster for the latest on the state’s response actions, and The National Hurricane Center for the latest information on Hurricane Isaias. You can also visit Alert Florida to sign up for emergency alerts and other public safety notifications in your community.
It’s also early in the hurricane season, which doesn’t end until Nov. 1. The peak of the storm season is usually around mid-September.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.