Tropical storm Isaias neared the Florida coast today, threatening to bring strong winds, flash flooding and storm surges.

However, it was no longer expected to regain hurricane strength after being downgraded from a category one hurricane.

Isaias was still packing sustained winds of 105km per hour as it moved slowly toward Florida's southeast, the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) said.

"Little change in strength is expected during the next couple of days," it stated.

The Miami-based NHC said the centre of Isaias was expected to move "near or over the east coast of Florida today through late tonight," before moving on Monday and Tuesday off the Georgia coast and into the southern mid-Atlantic.

The storm earlier dumped torrential rain on the Bahamas and claimed at least one life in Puerto Rico.

Florida's coast was experiencing heavy gusts of wind early this morning, and storm surges of up to 1.2 metres were still expected on Florida's northern coast, around Jacksonville.

US President Donald Trump declared an emergency ahead of the storm's arrival to free up federal funds.

Governor Ron DeSantis warned Floridians to brace for the storm, adding that Palm Beach county had issued a voluntary evacuation order.

Workers install panels and sand bags at the entrance of a pharmacy in Miami Beach, Florida

As the state battened down, it was also battling its coronavirus outbreak, which has complicated preparations.

Florida has the second highest number of cases of all states except California - which has double its population.

Yesterday, Florida reported 179 deaths - a new state record that pushed its virus death toll to 6,843.

The storm has had an impact beyond earth too, with NASA closely monitoring it before finally deciding that the SpaceX Crew Dragon craft could safely bring two astronauts back from the International Space Station.

Florida residents had rushed to stock up on essentials as the storm approached. Jason Woodall, 44, was boarding up the Miami Beach store where he works, while others nearby piled sandbags.

"You always got to be prepared, just in case, because you never know," he said.

Isaiashas already unleashed destruction in Puerto Rico, downing trees and electric lines and inundating houses as it cut a path through the island on Thursday.

A downed electricity pole is towed away after Isaias wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico

Authorities there yesterday said they had recovered the body of a 56-year-old woman whose car had been swept away by storm waters.

In the Bahamas, the deputy director of the country's meteorology department, Jeffrey Simmons, told The Nassau Guardian "the worst part" of the storm came to New Providence, the most populous island, early yesterday.

Images on social media showed flooded streets and downed trees, while shelters were mostly empty.