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A person looks out as waves kicked up by the Tropical Storm Isaias crash along the Deerfield Beach International Fishing Pier on August 2, 2020 in Deerfield Beach, Florida. The storm is brushing along the east coast of Florida and tropical storm conditions will extend northward along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Joe Raedle | Getty Images

Early bands of heavy rain from Isaias lashed Florida's east coast before dawn Sunday as authorities warily eyed the approaching storm, which threatened to snarl efforts to quell surging cases of the coronavirus across the region.

Isaias weakened from a hurricane to a tropical storm late Saturday afternoon, but was still expected to bring heavy rain and flooding as it barrels toward Florida.

"Don't be fooled by the downgrade," Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned during a news conference on Saturday after the storm spent hours roughing up the Bahamas.

Florida authorities closed beaches, parks and virus testing sites, lashing signs to palm trees so they wouldn't blow away. The governor said the state is anticipating power outages and asked residents to have a week's supply of water, food and medicine on hand. Officials wrestled with how to prepare shelters where people can seek refuge from the storm if necessary, while safely social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus.

In Palm Beach County, about 150 people were in shelters, said emergency management spokeswoman Lisa De La Rionda. The county has a voluntary evacuation order for those living in mobile or manufactured homes, or those who feel their home can't withstand winds.

"We don't anticipate many more evacuations," she said, adding that the evacuees are physically distant from each other and are wearing masks, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Isaias is piling another burden on communities already hard-hit by other storms and sickness.

The storm's maximum sustained winds declined steadily throughout Saturday, and were at 65 mph (100 kph) by Sunday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said at 8 a.m. EDT. The storm's center was located 40 miles (70 kilometers) east-southeast of West Palm Beach.

The center of the storm was forecast to approach the southeast coast of Florida early Sunday morning, then travel up the state's east coast throughout the day. Little change was expected in the storm's strength over the next few days, forecasters said.

Heavy rain, flooding and high winds could batter much of the East Coast this week as the system is forecast to track up or just off the Atlantic seaboard.

Despite the approaching storm, NASA says the return of two astronauts aboard a SpaceX capsule is still on track for Sunday afternoon. Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are preparing to make the first splashdown return in 45 years, after two months docked at the International Space Station. They are aiming for the Gulf of Mexico just off the Florida Panhandle, and flight controllers are keeping close watch on the storm.

Isaias has already been destructive in the Caribbean: On Thursday, before it became a hurricane, it uprooted trees, destroyed crops and homes and caused widespread flooding and small landslides in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. One man died in the Dominican Republic. In Puerto Rico, the National Guard rescued at least 35 people from floodwaters that swept away one woman, whose body was recovered Saturday.

Isaias snapped trees and knocked out power as it blew through the Bahamas on Saturday and churned toward the Florida coast.

As the storm moves now toward the southeast coast of Florida, a tropical storm warning is in effect from Hallandale Beach, Florida, to South Santee River, South Carolina, and for Florida's Lake Okeechobee. A storm surge watch is in effect for Jupiter Inlet to Ponte Vedra Beach, and from Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to Cape Fear, North Carolina.

Coronavirus cases have surged in Florida in recent weeks, and the added menace of a storm ratcheted up the anxiety. State-run virus testing sites are closing in areas where the storm might hit because the sites are outdoor tents, which could topple in high winds.

Natalie Betancur, stocking up at a grocery in Palm Beach Gardens, said that the storm itself doesn't cause her a great amount of concern.

"The hurricane is not that serious, but I feel that the public is really panicking because it's a hurricane and we're in the middle of a pandemic," she said.

Meanwhile, officials in the Bahamas opened shelters for people in Abaco island to help those who have been living in temporary structures since Dorian devastated the area, killing at least 70 people.

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Officials found the body of a 5-year-old girl who went missing as Isaias pounded Northeast

(CNN)The body of 5-year-old Eliza Talal was found Wednesday after she went missing from her Pennsylvania home at the height of the storm a day earlier, Towamencin Township Police Chief Tim Dickinson said.

Towamencin Township, in the southeastern part of the state, felt the powerful effects of Isaias as the storm barreled through the East Coast earlier this week. In its wake, the storm left heavy flooding, damage and widespread power outages, prompting at least two governors to declare states of emergency. On Thursday morning, nearly two million people were still without power across the Northeast, according to, who the chief said had autism and was reportedly nonverbal, was last seen around noon on Tuesday before she walked away from her home, which backs into a creek, the chief said.
    Eliza Talal"We believe based on the circumstances, that she left the house and somehow went into the water," Dickinson said. Authorities and volunteers conducted an extensive search.Read More"I can tell you that these police officers here, and first responders, and community members, searched tirelessly," the chief, who was visibly emotional said. "Our prayers go out to her family, who have suffered a terrible loss. Not the result that we were certainly hoping for."7 people deadEliza is one of at least seven people who died during the storm this week. Two people were killed when a tornado struck a mobile home park in Windsor, North Carolina, Bertie County officials said. At least a dozen others were injured. 2.2 million homes and businesses along the East Coast have no power after Isaias In St. Mary's County in southern Maryland, the driver of a car died after a tree fell on the vehicle's roof. At least three separate tornadoes were reported in the southern part of the state early Tuesday -- two in St. Mary's County and one in Calvert County. In New York, 60-year-old Mario Siles was found dead inside a 2014 Dodge van "with trauma about the head and body," a New York Police Department spokeswoman said.In Delaware, an 83-year-old woman was found under a large branch in a pond near her home, Cpl. Jason Hatchell with Delaware State Police told CNN.Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced one storm-related death in Lancaster County.More outages than Superstorm Sandy in one stateThe storm may have passed quickly by some states, but it left behind lasting damage. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo says Isaias left more people in the state without power than Superstorm Sandy.At least 150,000 residents lost power during this week's storm, the governor said. About 23,000 were without power early Thursday, showed.One Rhode Island resident told CNN affiliate WJAR they were home as the storm ripped trees from the ground and snapped power lines. "We heard this bomb. I said 'oh God it sounds like a tree come down,'" Flo Crompton said. Track the stormCommunities under a state of emergencyIn New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency for several counties following the storm and ordered the mobilization of 50 members of the state's National Guard with vehicles to help Putnam County officials respond to the aftermath. "We're taking an all-hands-on-deck approach and activating every resource at our disposal to expedite communities' recovery from the impacts of Tropical Storm Isaias," Cuomo said in a statement.There were more than 3,000 reports of downed trees in Queens, CNN affiliate WABC reported, some of which caused damage to homes and power outages. One tree crashed through a home's roof and fell just feet away from a child, the news station reported. Across Long Island, trees fell on cars, houses and power lines, leaving hundreds of thousands without power, the affiliate said. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont also announced a state of emergency Wednesday citing widespread power outages following the storm.Both governors have called for investigations into how utility companies responded to the storm. Connecticut had more than 630,000 customers without power early Thursday, while New York had more than 590,000 outages, reported.
      "Several years ago, Connecticut experienced large-scale outages that took days to recover from, and we were told that the utilities were improving their resources so that they can be prepared for the next time Mother Nature inevitably hits again," Lamont wrote on Twitter. "And now here we are, with a wholly inadequate response to another storm."

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