As Hurricane Dorian appears to shift closer to South Florida for a potential Tuesday morning landfall, Gov. Ron DeSantis warned Floridians that they still have time — though it is decreasing — to prepare for what is expected to be Florida’s first major hurricane of the season.
Speaking at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee on Friday morning, DeSantis said the storm is expected to bring heavy rainfall and flooding to much of the peninsula, though the storm’s exact track still remains uncertain. Dorian, which is forecast to become a Category 4 storm, is also slowing considerably as it nears the state’s eastern coast, which could subject areas to “prolonged” winds, storm surge and rain, forecasters have said. Tropical-storm force winds are expected to reach Florida as early as Sunday.
“The bad news of this storm going slower is that it could have some negative impacts before it reaches landfall,” he said, warning the storm could be a “multi-day event” churning slowly across the state. “You have time to prepare if you have not done so.”
State officials have begun preparing for the storm across the state, DeSantis said Friday, distributing about a million gallons of water, with plans to distribute almost two million meals from a central warehouse hub in Orlando. The Department of Transportation has cleared the shoulders of major highways including I-95 and I-75 to prepare for evacuation orders that could come from local governments as early as Friday, DeSantis added.
“Please heed those directives from your local folks,” he said. “If you’re in an evacuation zone and you’re ordered to evacuate, [it’s] better to evacuate.”
As lines for gas and fuel grow longer in potentially affected areas, the Florida Highway Patrol is escorting tankers to get fuel in sooner, he said. Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz is working with Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia to waive service fees and truck weight limits to expedite refueling, he added.
“There’s some parts of the state where you have major lines for gas, cars are lined up,” he said. “We have a lot of fuel in Florida. It’s just we have limited capacity to bring it from the port to the gas stations because you can only have so many trucks at one time doing that.”
Florida National Guard commander James Eifert added that 2,000 National Guard members have been activated, and that that number would double by Saturday.
At an afternoon briefing in Palm Beach County, DeSantis said his request for a pre-landfall disaster declaration Thursday for all of the state’s 67 counties to enable federal resources and funding for emergency measures to reach the state as Dorian pummels the state has been granted.
“That will enable us to draw down more federal resources in anticipation of this storm,” he said.
The state Agency for Health Care Administration is doing site visits or calls to nursing homes before the storm hits, and released a new website Thursday to help people track their generator status.
DeSantis said that the agency is still trying to determine generator information for about 120 facilities. Despite a mandate approved by the state Legislature last year, nearly 60% of the state’s nursing homes still do not meet the new requirements for backup power and fuel and have been given additional time by state officials to meet the regulations.
DeSantis said there are also plans to put state prisoners into facilities that can withstand the storm’s potential impacts, but said he was not aware of what might happen to federal prisoners in institutions like FCI Miami.
“We’re not really going to take federal prisoners, I don’t think there’s a plan for that,” he said. “They obviously have their own facilities and are responsible for those those inmates.”
During the afternoon briefing, DeSantis said the storm’s current track could mean “more impacts here in Palm Beach County.”
“That’s obviously something that’s very significant,” he said. “We want everyone in Palm Beach County to be making the necessary preparations.”
But he said everyone should be ready, just in case.
“The constant in this storm...is that this thing is getting stronger,” he said.
DeSantis was scheduled to travel to Orange County later Friday.
Miami Herald staff writer Carli Teproff contributed to this report.
2019 Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Guide
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