Tropical system puts state on alert

Tom Burry, owner of Burry’s ACE Hardware in La Plaza Grande Shopping Center, prepares a shelf with hurricane emergency supplies. A tropical system in the Atlantic has a 90% chance of strengthening into Tropical Storm Isaias.

Florida may see an impact from a potential tropical system that forecasters expect will strengthen into Tropical Storm Isaias.

The system has a 90% chance of strengthening within the next two to five days, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters expect it to become the earliest “I” storm to form, surpassing Hurricane Irene on Aug. 7, 2005.

Although the first forecast track issued Tuesday by the National Hurricane Center showed the potential storm making landfall Sunday in Florida, hurricane center forecasters cautioned that the details of the track are “more uncertain than usual since the system does not have a well-defined center.”

Isaias would be the ninth named storm of the hurricane season, just four away from approaching the minimum number that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted in May in its above-normal outlook for this year.

And the season has four more months to go.

Outlook for Isaias

As of Tuesday afternoon, the hurricane center had a track for the likely tropical storm but did not say it had formed.

Jerry del Castillo, weather forecaster with WVLG 102.7 FM, 104.5 FM & 640 AM, referred to the system Tuesday not as Isaias but as “Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine,” the phrase the hurricane center used to describe the system.

At the time, the hurricane center expected the system to strengthen within 48 hours. But during a 3 p.m. forecast on WVLG, del Castillo predicted Isaias would form sooner than that.

It was tracking about 575 miles east of the Leeward Islands with maximum sustained winds near 40 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Forecasters expect the storm to form before it reaches the Leeward Islands.

Although the forecast track could change over the coming days, Floridians should consider that the system could make an impact on the region with rain and wind by the end of the week, del Castillo said.

Preparing for the storm

Experts frequently recommend stocking an emergency supply kit, including a battery-powered weather alert radio, and developing a plan with tasks to do before, during and after a hurricane.

With this year’s hurricane season coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, FEMA is recommending people also stock hand sanitizer, a face mask and disinfectant wipes as part of their supply kits.

Now is the time to purchase supplies, or ensure a household’s stock of supplies is in order, said Lt. John Longacre, emergency resource specialist with The Villages Public Safety Department.

He also cautioned residents against panic buying.

“Don’t hoard on supplies to the point you’re hindering the needs of your neighbors or friends,” he said.

Anyone who hasn’t done so already should register for their county’s emergency notification program, Longacre said. The systems are AlertSumter, AlertLake and Alert Marion.

And those who have a weather radio should program it for the county they live in, he said.

Senior writer Michael Salerno can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5369, or michael.salerno@thevillagesmedia.com.