With a Category 1 hurricane expected to be in The Bahamas as early as tonight, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis last night relaxed this weekend’s lockdown to allow for storm preparation across The Bahamas.
The Department of Meteorology has issued a hurricane warning for the northwestern and central Bahamas.
This came one day after Acting Director of Meteorology Trevor Basden told reporters that Tropical Storm Isaias had a 75 percent chance of not developing into a hurricane.
During a press conference at the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Minnis said, “To prepare for Tropical Storm Isaias, this weekend’s lockdown will be relaxed to allow for storm preparations and to respond following the passage of the storm.”
He added, “I also wish to announce that — based on current indicators and data provided by health officials — a lockdown will still be necessary following the passage of the storm.”
A 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will be imposed as of tonight. It remains in place until further notice.
Grocery stores, water depots, pharmacies and gas stations will be permitted to be open until 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Hardware stores will also be allowed to open until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Individuals will be allowed to move around for the purposes of storm preparations and to respond to any emergencies during and after the storm.
Those relaxed restrictions will also apply to Grand Bahama, which is currently on a lockdown after being declared a COVID-19 hotspot, according to Minister of States for Disaster Preparedness Iram Lewis.
Isaias is the first storm to hit The Bahamas for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
It comes 11 months after Hurricane Dorian — the strongest storm to ever hit The Bahamas — ravaged Abaco and Grand Bahama, displacing thousands and killing at least 74.
Senior Deputy Director in the Department of Meteorology Jeffrey Simmons told The Nassau Guardian yesterday Isaias will likely become a hurricane “around Saturday morning”.
“Even though that is the case, we still expect it be no more than a Category 1 hurricane,” he said.
“A consensus of the models actually has the storm passing, the center of the system passing more or less between New Providence and Andros.
“Depending on the size of the eye, New Providence and Andros may be in that area.
“So, we’re looking at that happening late Friday night, early Saturday morning; and so, we expect winds to be minimum hurricane strength which should be around 70 miles per hour or so and, of course, a lot of rain because this system does have a lot of rain.
“One of the good things about it is because it will remain just a minimal hurricane storm surge will not really be a significant factor in this.”
If storm surge were to happen, it would not exceed five to 10 feet, according to Simmons.
He said four to eight inches of rain can be expected with the storm.
An all clear will likely be issued late-Sunday afternoon, according to Basden.
The prime minister urged Bahamians to take the storm “seriously”.
“I beg you do not use this period for hurricane preparation to go socializing and visiting friends or family,” Minnis said.
“If you do not need to be out, please stay at home. We are in the midst of a pandemic and if we do not act responsibly the consequences could be dire. During this time, I ask you to be respectful, courteous and helpful to others.”
He described the situation as “fast moving and fluid”.
Minnis said the government has mobilized all of its resources.
“Before I close, I send a message out to the young people,” he said.
“I know that many of you are booking into the hotels during the hurricane. Use that time for security and safety. Please do not engage in hurricane or COVID parties. It will not help us and it can be devastating and we will see the after effects if not in two weeks, possibly later.”
There are 508 cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
Twenty-four new cases were reported yesterday, bringing the total number of cases reported this month to 404.
On Wednesday, Director of Social Services Lillian Quant-Forbes said hurricane shelters will have designated isolation areas for individuals who present with COVID-19 symptoms.
She said social distancing will be enforced in shelters.
Last night, NEMA Director Captain Stephen Russell said shelters will be activated today at 9 a.m.
He said there were no evacuations planned for the Family Islands.