Hunker down, South Florida.
With Tropical Storm Isaac forecast to close within 120 miles of Miami as a hurricane, the region is expected to be roughed up by heavy rains and wind gusts up to 60 mph, starting mid-morning on Sunday and lasting about 24 hours.
Although it’s unlikely hurricane conditions will spread this far, Broward and Palm Beach counties could be buffeted by a full-blown tropical storm, capable of knocking down trees and power lines and causing flooding.
Officials urged residents to remain indoors and avoid roadways until the storm subsides.
“Even if we don’t get hurricane force winds, tropical force winds are still dangerous,” meteorologist Robert Molleda of the National Weather Service in Miami said. “Were going to have quite a high number of power outages, particularly as we get into Monday.”
A hurricane watch has been posted for South Florida, from Golden Beach south to the Keys. A tropical storm warning has been issued for the much of the state’s east coast, from Sebastian Inlet south.
At 5 a.m. Sunday, Isaac was in the Atlantic, hugging the north coast of Cuba, moving northwest at 18 mph with sustained winds of 65 mph. It was about 205 miles southeast of Key West; its tropical force winds extended 205 miles from its center.
After crossing over Haiti’s mountainous terrain on Friday night at close to hurricane strength, Isaac was left disorganized and weakened. Just the same, forecasters think it will bulk up again in the warm waters of the Florida Straits.
Under the latest forecast, Isaac would approach the Keys on Sunday afternoon as a minimal hurricane with sustained winds of 75 mph.
If that prediction holds, this region can expect to see the system’s first rain bands move in before dawn on Sunday. Conditions would then deteriorate through the day, rage through the night and continue through Monday morning. The peak of the nasty weather would be sometime Sunday night.
Over the two days, Isaac could produce 5 to 10 inches of rain, posing a “significant” flood threat, forecasters said. There also could be some tornadoes.
In Broward and Palm Beach counties, the system is forecast to generate 35 to 45 mph winds with gusts up to 60 mph. Coastal areas and Miami-Dade County can expect the winds to be 5 to 10 mph stronger.
If Isaac wobbles closer than currently forecast, the weather would be even worse, forecasters said.
“Any shift to the north, we're talking a different ballgame,” said weather service meteorologist Alex Gibbs.
While Isaac storm isn't expected to create much storm surge in Broward or Palm Beach, it could cause a rough surf and beach erosion, the weather service said.
After crossing the Keys, Isaac is projected to angle northwest into the Gulf of Mexico and arrive about 125 miles west of Tampa Bay early on Tuesday. It is forecast to strike Florida's Panhandle on Tuesday as a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 100 mph.
In addition to South Florida, much of the state was bracing for the storm, particularly the Keys and the state’s west coast, which stands to be raked by Isaac’s swirling winds over the next three days. It also could see major coastal flooding.
The hurricane center also is monitoring a tropical wave in the eastern Atlantic near the Cape Verde Islands, giving it a medium chance of developing into a depression or storm over the next two days. That system was moving northwest at 15 mph
The next named storm will be Kirk.
South Florida needs to brace for Isaac
5 a.m. Sunday advisory (August 26, 2012)