Storm clouds are seen over the city as Hurricane Isaias approaches the east coast of Florida in Miami, Florida. – AFP

MIAMI: Tropical storm Isaias threatened to bring strong winds, flash flooding and life-threatening storm surges to North and South Carolina as it roared up the east coast of the United States yesterday. The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of nearly 70 miles per hour and was expected to reach near-hurricane strength when it made landfall in the virus-hit Carolinas later in the day, the National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest public advisory at 0600 GMT. It warned on Twitter that Isaias could “bring a storm surge of up to 4 feet to coastal parts of South and North Carolina.”

Both states have seen a recent surge in coronavirus cases, with South Carolina announcing 1,100 new infections on Sunday and North Carolina just over 1,340. “We in North Carolina mostly know what to do,” said the state’s governor, Roy Cooper. “You pack your emergency kit, follow local evacuation orders, stay in a safe place and never drive through flooded roadways. “But this time, pack your masks and hand sanitizers in your kit and remember to social distance.” Up to 150 national guard soldiers have been activated to help prepare for the storm and assist in the aftermath if necessary, Cooper said.

Isaias, downgraded from a category one hurricane, had earlier threatened Florida where some coronavirus testing centers-many housed in tents-were closed last week as the storm approached. They will reopen on Wednesday, according to the local government COVID-19 website. State emergency management director, Jared Moskowitz, said: “This was a really good test of a lot of the new protocols and procedures that have been put in place here in the state of Florida (to) battle a hurricane season with COVID-19.”

He said hotels had been set up so those seeking shelter could maintain social distancing, or to serve as shelters for people who had tested positive for the virus. “It looks like we’re (in) really good shape, but we’re not declaring mission accomplished until this thing is away from us,” he told CNN. The storm earlier dumped torrential rain on the Bahamas, felling trees and flooding streets, before emergency management officials on Sunday gave the “all clear” for the entire country. At least one person died in Puerto Rico.- AFP