North Carolina readies emergency shelters and residents begin to evacuate as Hurricane Isaias churns toward Florida’s east coast this weekend

The Category 1 hurricane, with current winds up to 75 mph, blew over the Bahamas Saturday morning, downing trees and tearing off roofing. On Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper issued a State of Emergency for North Carolina as millions of costal residents up and down the Southeast prepare.

As Isaias approaches the U.S. mainland, here’s what we know, and don’t know.

How badly will it impact the Carolinas?

After the storm reaches Florida, Isaias is expected to hug the state’s east coast as it works its way north toward South Carolina. Forecasts project Isaias will reach the North Carolina coast early Tuesday with initial tropical-strength-force winds arriving Monday evening. The storm is currently predicted to hit North Carolina as a strong tropical storm.

The North Carolina Department of Public Safety predicts the state’s eastern counties could experience wind gusts up to 75 miles per hour and up to six inches of rain. The department warned there will be a high risk of rip currents and the potential for storm surges in costal areas.

In addition to Cooper’s State of Emergency order, counties like Onslow and Dare as well as multiple coastal towns issued their own State of Emergency orders.

The hurricane slowed a bit on Saturday, dropping from 80 miles per hour in the morning to 75 miles per hour as of 2 p.m.

Are there any evacuations?

On Friday, Hyde County issued a mandatory evacuation order for Ocracoke Island. The North Carolina Ferry System is offering rides to remove people from the island.

On Saturday, Dare County issued a mandatory evacuation for all visitors to Hatteras Island, with a mandatory evacuation order for Hatteras Island residents beginning the following day. On Saturday, Brunswick County issued evacuation orders for Holden Beach and Ocean Isle Beach.

To limit potential exposures, the state asks evacuees to travel the shortest distance possible to avoid impacted areas. Officials urge residents of 20 coastal counties to go to visit to see their evacuation zone in the case of further evacuation orders.

Will the pandemic impact shelters?

"Double trouble," is how Cooper described facing a hurricane during a pandemic Friday. The Governor made specific sheltering recommendations to address COVID-19, saying residents who needed to evacuate should look to stay with family and friends, or stay at a hotel, before considering state-run shelters. Shelters will be opened, and people will be checked for symptoms before entering and given masks.

Cooper said there will be separate shelters for those presenting symptoms.

On Saturday morning, New Hanover County officials tweeted its shelters "will be EXTREMELY limited due to COVID-19 and should NOT - repeat, NOT - be your emergency plan."

The state recommends people in impacted areas prepare an emergency kit that includes a gallon of water, non-perishable food, any prescription drugs, and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather radio. In addition, it is recommended this year to pack face coverings and hand sanitizer as well.

Reporter Brian Gordon can be reached at