The sprawling storm could produce from six to 10 inches of rain and powerful gusts across much of South Florida, with tropical storm force winds beginning to buffet the Keys Sunday and building to hurricane force. Squalls that drenched South Florida overnight and Saturday morning weren’t part of Isaac but a hint of the dreary weather to come.
“It’s going to be a day to stay inside,” said Adam Futterman, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service’s Key West office. “Travel is strongly discouraged.’’
Scott also issued an executive order, a standard process prior to a storm or hurricane makes landfall to provide adequate time for cities and counties to begin preparing. It directs all state agencies, including the Florida National Guard, to provide any needed assistance to local governments.
The state’s emergency operations center is also fully activated.
Across South Florida, government workers were preparing. Some residents made last-minute trips to buy supplies, while others sought to keep some routine.
Charles Winick, his 8-year-old triplets in tow, visited the West Regional Library in Plantation Saturday for a weekly library trip.
“We weren’t going to let it stop us,” he said. “It doesn’t look like it is going to hit us.”
In Homestead — ground zero for Hurricane Andrew two decades ago — city officials set up two self-service sandbag stations. The city will provide a mound of sand at each of the stations and empty bags. The sandbag stations will be located at Harris Field Park, 1034 NE 8 St., and Roby George Park, 975 SW 4th St.
Down in Monroe, shelters opened at 2 p.m. Saturday as the sheriff’s office urged tourists to evacuate the island chain. As weather was worsening— with tropical storm-force winds likely to last the island early Sunday morning — Key West International Airport was slated to close at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Frank Gambino, of Marathon pool-service company, is concerned about flooding. Back in 2005, the morning after Hurricane Wilma hit, storm surge in the Keys reached nine feet.
“I’m making sure I get everything off the floor in case we get some localized flooding,” Gambino said. “We don’t plan on working until Tuesday at least. But it all depends on the severity of the storm.”
Down U.S. 1, Forest Tek Lumber also was busy, but plywood wasn’t flying off the shelves. Most residents in the Keys already have storm shutters and were just in need of shutter clips or wing nuts to fasten them. Many Keys homeowners also have high impact windows and glass, to help with insurance rates and peace of mind.
“It’s not as busy as it used to be when people weren’t as prepared,” said Mike Rundgren, contract manager for Forest Tek. “But we do have quite a few last minute people here for batteries and flashlights.”
Across the Caribbean, Haiti appeared to have been saved from the worst of Isaac but flooding persisted in places including a quake-battered Port-au-Prince. An overflowing Grise River, which begins in Petionville, flooded the road leading to the U.S. Embassy and left scores of homes in Cite Soleil near Route 9 underwater.
Residents waded through knee-high water as streets and parking lots turned into a mucky-brown river.
“I wasn’t able to save anything; everything’s gone,” a distraught resident, Mrs. Marc Henri-Louis, cried as she stood along the street watching her flooded house.
A few feet away, a group of young men loitered a USAID depot, stealing bags of beans.
In Zorange, where hundreds of government-constructed houses for quake victims remain empty, thieves walked around with hammers stealing doors and tin sheeting off houses.
These were isolated incidents. Haitian officials, which responded quickly to calls for help through the night, warned Haitians to remain indoors, stay off bridges and do not cross rivers.
At least three were dead, according to Haitian and U.N. officials.
In Jacmel, southwest of the capital, a falling tree killed a woman while in the Artibonite Valley in Northwest Haiti, a 7-year-old died of electrocution. Just north of Port-au-Prince, a collapsing wall killed a 10-year-old girl.
Miami Herald staff writers Jacqueline Charles in Haiti; Cammy Clark in the Keys; Christina Veiga, Ina Paiva Cordle, Frances Robles, Juan Tamayo, Laura Isensee, Carli Teproff and Charles Rabin in Miami; and Toluse Olorunnipa and Times/Herald staff writer Brittany Alana Davis in Tallahassee and Larry Kahn from The Keynoter contributed to this report.