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Tropical Storm Isaias lashes NY, NJ with gusty wind, heavy rain

Tracking Tropical Storm Isaias
Tracking Tropical Storm Isaias
Posted at 5:45 AM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-04 18:00:37-04

NEW YORK — Tropical Storm Isaias roared into New York and New Jersey on Tuesday, bringing heavy rain and damaging winds that downed trees and power lines.

The storm barreled quickly through the area over the course of about five hours. Partly sunny skies have replaced storm clouds in parts of Long Island, New York City and New Jersey.

Periods of rain and strong wind gusts are still possible through early Tuesday evening.

A tropical storm warning remains in effect for much of the tri-state area through Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service.

A tornado watch and several area-specific tornado warnings, including one in Suffolk County, have since expired.

The NWS confirmed a small tornado touched down in Cape May County in New Jersey Tuesday just after 10 a.m.

A coastal flood advisory was issued for New Jersey, New York City and Long Island through 2 a.m. Wednesday, according to the NWS.

After returning to hurricane strength Monday, Isaias was downgraded to a tropical storm once again early Tuesday. The storm made landfall late Monday night near Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina before making its way up New Jersey and into New York on Tuesday.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio held a storm briefing Tuesday morning. Watch the news conference below.

Strong, damaging winds

The worst of Isaias' damaging winds were expected Tuesday afternoon and into the evening.

Winds of 30 to 40 mph with gusts of 50 to 70 mph are possible, especially over coastal areas of New Jersey and Long Island, through about 6 p.m.

Downed trees, power lines and minor structural damage has been reported across New York and New Jersey.

Hundreds of thousands of customers in New York and New Jersey were without power Tuesday afternoon.

Public transit in both states was suspended due to strong winds and hazardous conditions related to downed trees.

Heavy rain, flood risks and rainfall totals

Showers started very early Tuesday morning and increased throughout the day, becoming heavier during the afternoon.

Considering Isaias' westward shift as it moved up the Mid-Atlantic coast, rain totals across the area were adjusted.

Higher amounts were still expected north and west of the city, with 4 to 6 inches possible over western sections of New Jersey and the interior Hudson Valley.

Meanwhile, 2 to 4 inches were possible for New York City and northeastern New Jersey, while 1 to 2 inches were possible over Long Island and coastal Connecticut.

Official rainfall amounts are expected Tuesday evening.

A coastal flood warning is also in effect Tuesday afternoon and evening, with a possible storm surge of 1 to 3 feet.

The last remnants of the storm are expected to depart the tri-state area as nightfall comes. Wednesday is expected to be mostly sunny and around 88 degrees.

Officials, Emergency Management teams and utility companies respond

Gov. Phil Murphy declared a State of Emergency for New Jersey late Monday night that went into effect at 5 a.m. Tuesday.

Murphy urged New Jersey residents on Tuesday to avoid unnecessary travel and report power outages.

The state is prepared for a "very intensive weather experience," lasting between six and nine hours, the governor said during a storm briefing Tuesday morning. The State of Emergency operations center has been activated.

“We urge all residents to stay off the roads and stay home if they can,” Murphy said.

Officials warned on Tuesday that strong winds could delay power restoration efforts.

If wind speeds reach above 40 mph, it becomes too dangerous for utility workers to go up into bucket trucks to restore power, according to Joe Fiordaliso, the president of the Board of Public Utilities.

“Let's hope that the wind does not get to the point that it’s detrimental to restoration efforts,” Fiordaliso said. “But that possibility exists and I don’t want anyone to be under the illusion that it’s not.”

Both Murphy and Fiordaliso urged residents to immediately report power outages to their utility. Do not assume someone else will make the call, Murphy added.

New York officials also braced for the storm.

New York City Office of Emergency Management activated its flash flood plan. Crews cleared streets and catch basins in flood-prone areas of the five boroughs over the weekend.

The OEM's downed tree task force was put on alert and crews installed flood barriers along a one-mile stretch of lower Manhattan, where a storm surge of up to 2 feet is possible, according to OEM Commissioner Deanne Criswell.

Hear more about how cities were preparing

Officials with Con Edison, meanwhile, urged customers to register on the utility’s website to make reporting power outages easier. Customers can sign up to receive power outage alerts and updates on their phones.

Generators, pumps, large-scale vehicles and other storm-related equipment were moved downstate ahead of the storm's projected arrival, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

“Tropical Storm Isaias has started moving through New York, bringing strong winds, rain and the potential for flash flooding,” Cuomo said Tuesday morning. “I urge New Yorkers to look out for local weather alerts, exercise caution and avoid unnecessary travel, especially if you are in the storm's direct path.”