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UPDATE 2-Florida declares emergency on coast as Hurricane Isaias barrels toward state

31 Jul 2020 / 23:53 H.

    (New throughout, adds state of emergency on Florida's Atlantic coast)

    By Zachary Fagenson

    MIAMI, July 31 (Reuters) - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday declared a state of emergency for counties on the Atlantic coast with Hurricane Isaias expected to hit the state as early as this evening before moving up north into early next week.

    The hurricane, packing maximum sustained winds of 75 miles (120.7 km) per hour, is currently lashing the southeastern part of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, the U.S. National Hurricane Center (NHC) said on its Twitter feed.

    The NHC said heavy rains may begin to affect south and east-Central Florida beginning late Friday night, and the eastern Carolinas by early next week, potentially causing flooding in low-lying areas.

    "It is a very fluid situation," DeSantis told a news conference. "Now is a great time to make your disaster supply kit if you haven't already."

    Miami-Dade County officials closed drive-through and walk-up testing sites for COVID-19. Public beaches, parks, marinas, and golf courses were also set to close on Friday as Isaias strengthened to a Category 1 hurricane and forecasters predicted it would reach Category 2.

    Broward County Mayor Dale V.C. Holness had on Thursday also announced testing sites would close, with plans to reopen on Wednesday morning.

    As of Friday morning the storm was predicted to most impact Florida's central, eastern region before moving north.

    At full capacity Florida had 162 test sites in all but two of the state's 67 counties. Some counties will continue testing through their individual health departments.

    "We have thousands of tests that will not be conducted until we get these test sites up and running again," Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a virtual news conference on Friday morning. (Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut Editing by Nick Zieminski, Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)

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