Tropical Storm Isaias forms near Puerto Rico; Florida track shifts: reports

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The Florida Panhandle may be spared major impact from the newly formed Tropical Storm Isaias, which now has the state’s east coast in its sights, according to reports.

The storm officially formed in the Atlantic Ocean near Puerto Rico around 11 p.m. Wednesday, FOX 35 of Orlando reported.

As of 2 a.m. EDT Thursday, Isaias was centered about 100 miles south-southwest of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and about 215 miles southeast of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. It had maximum sustained winds of 50 mph and was moving northwest at 18 mph, the U.S. National Hurricane Center reported.

The formation of the storm prompted forecasters to issue a tropical storm warning for several islands in the Caribbean.

Forecasters on Wednesday morning believed the storm would head for the West Coast of Florida, including the Panhandle, but now they say the storm’s track has shifted to the state’s east – but warned it remained too early to say for sure which way the storm will go, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

The storm’s center was expected to reach Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic) on Thursday and reach the southeastern Bahamas by early Friday, FOX 35 reported.

The government of the Bahamas has upgraded the tropical storm watch for the central Bahamas to a tropical storm warning and has issued a tropical storm watch for the northwestern Bahamas, according to The Associated Press.

As it advances, “Interests in Cuba and the Florida peninsula should monitor the progress of this system,” the hurricane center advised, according to the Sentinel.

Isaias is expected to produce 3 to 6 inches of rain across the British and U.S. Virgin Islands and Turks and Caicos and also across Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, northern Haiti, and eastern Cuba with isolated maximum totals of 8 inches, according to the AP.

The southeastern Bahamas could see 4 to 8 inches of rain.

Heavy rains could lead to life-threatening flash flooding and mudslides, as well as potential riverine flooding beginning Wednesday night. The storm is also likely to cause swells that will likely cause cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions affecting portions of the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico through Thursday.

These swells are forecast to reach the north coast of the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos Islands and the southeastern Bahamas on Thursday.

Tropical Storm Warnings were issued for Puerto Rico, Vieques, Culebra, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, St. Martin, St. Barthelemy, Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Martin, the entire southern and northern coastlines of the Dominican Republic, the north coast of Haiti from Le Mole St Nicholas eastward to the northern border with the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos Islands, southeastern Bahamas including the Acklins, Crooked Island, Long Cay, the Inaguas, Mayaguana, and the Ragged Islands and the central Bahamas, including Cat Island, the Exumas, Long Island, Rum Cay, and San Salvador.

Isaias broke the record as the earliest ninth Atlantic named storm, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. The previous record was Irene on Aug. 7, 2005, Klotzbach tweeted.

So far this year, Cristobal, Danielle, Edouard, Fay, Gert and Hanna also set records for being the earliest named Atlantic storm for their alphabetic order.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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