Tropical Storm Isaias forms in the Caribbean

ORLANDO, Fla. – Tropical Storm Isaias is the ninth named storm of the season and it continues on a project path toward Florida.

This is the earliest “I” storm on record and is also the fifth named storm in July.

As of Wednesday night, the National Hurricane Center said the storm was 155 miles south of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and was moving west-northwest at 20 mph. The storm was packing 50 mph winds with higher gusts. Since an earlier update, the system’s track has shifted east.

A tropical storm warning is in effect for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and several other countries. A tropical storm watch is in effect for the central Bahamas. Interests in the northwestern Bahamas and Cuba should monitor the progress of this system, weather officials said.

A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are expected somewhere within the warning area within 36 hours.

A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within 48 hours.

[MORE: Seminole, Orange counties offer free sandbags | Plan and prepare | What’s a tropical cyclone?]

The storm could reach the U.S. mainland, with Florida in the system’s potential track, though the long-term track and intensity are highly uncertain.

“Much of the Central Florida forecast into the weekend and early next week will depend on the eventual track of what is currently Potential Tropical Cyclone Nine,” News 6 meteorologist Candace Campos said. “There is still considerable uncertainty in the future track since a center of circulation cannot yet be found for the models to latch onto.”

Computer models are in relatively good agreement that the storm will cross near or over Puerto Rico and Hispaniola over the next two days, but after that models begin to fan out and increase uncertainty.

“One model, the GFS, slows the system down as it nears the south and west coast of Florida,” she said. “If the system follows that track, flooding could be a primary threat. For this reason, rain chances have increased to 60 percent for most of the Orlando area by Sunday and into the early part of next week.”

According to the latest advisory, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center predict the system will reach tropical storm status Wednesday night.

“Environmental conditions are expected to be conducive for additional development, and a tropical storm is forecast to form tonight,” the latest advisory said.

Forecasters said the system could then weaken again some on Thursday once it interacts with land before it has the chance to restrengthen again by the weekend.

The NHC said after passing south of Puerto Rico Wednesday night, the system is expected to head near or over Hispaniola on Thursday before approaching the northwestern Bahamas and southern Florida Friday night.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon that he’s monitoring the potential tropical cyclone “very closely” and encouraged Floridians to prepare now by stocking up on food, water, medication and any other necessary supplies.

[READ MORE: Florida governor says he’s monitoring potential tropical cyclone ‘very closely’]

To help with the island’s response to the storm, Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced declared a state of emergency, which President Donald Trump signed off on Wednesday, offering up federal assistance.

“As a result of the imminent threat posed by this tropical disturbance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, I made the hard choice of declaring a state of emergency for the island,” Vázquez Garced said. “I have requested personnel, equipment, and supplies. These measures are to provide an effective, robust response in the event of this storm. I also requested food, generators, water and tarps. It is worth noting that Puerto Rico is managing three emergencies at the time: The island continues to experience seismic events; we have the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; and now this tropical disturbance.”

The new advisory and forecast track was released at 5 p.m. The next update is expected at 8 p.m.

Orlando-area forecast

Isolated storms will develop Wednesday along the east coast sea breeze and also over the interior.

The highest chance of rain will be along the I-4 corridor, with coverage at 50-60&. Rain chances will be a bit lower along the coast.

Some storms will continue into the evening, especially if convection gets a later start.

High temperatures will run near the average of 92.

“We will string together in a few drier days to end the week, with rain chances down to 20-30% on Thursday and Friday,” Campos said. “The limited rain and clouds will allow highs to soar into the mid-90s, with ‘feels like’ temperatures in the triple digits.”

Watch News 6 for more weather coverage.

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