TALLAHASSEE, Florida, September 1, 2019 (ENS) – Florida, South Carolina and Georgia are preparing for powerful Hurricane Dorian, a Category 5 hurricane that is bearing down on the Atlantic coast. Dorian is a slow-moving storm with tropical storm-force winds extending up to 140 miles from its center, heavy rain and the potential for storm surge and flooding.
Dorian made landfall twice Sunday afternoon in the Bahamas as a disastrous Category 5 storm with estimated sustained surface winds of 185 mph and gusts reaching 220 mph at Elbow Cay, Abacos, in the northern Bahamas, tearing off roofs, overturning cars and downing power lines as hundreds took shelter in schools and churches.
“It’s devastating,” Joy Jibrilu, director general of the Bahamas’ Ministry of Tourism told reporters. “There has been huge damage to property and infrastructure. Luckily, no loss of life reported.”
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis had multiple briefings on the hurricane from Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz and State Meteorologist Amy Godsey today. The governor is in constant communication with federal, state and local weather experts, as well as county emergency management directors and mayors.
“We have seen what Hurricane Dorian is capable of, and the First Lady and I extend our prayers to the people of the Bahamas,” said Governor DeSantis. “As we continue to monitor this storm, all Floridians should follow local reports and heed the call for evacuations. We are ready to deploy assets as needed and will continue to monitor traffic and fuel levels as more counties come under hurricane watches and warnings.”
Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for coastal areas of Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties. St. Johns, Brevard and Volusia counties will issue evacuation orders tomorrow. To assist evacuation traffic, Governor DeSantis has directed the suspension of tolls on Florida’s Turnpike Mainline, and selected toll roads across the state.
South Carolina and Georgia have ordered one million coastal residents to evacuate ahead of Dorian. “We know we can’t make everybody happy, but we believe we can keep everyone alive,” said South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster.
Governor McMaster and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp both announced mandatory evacuation orders to take effect at noon Monday in advance of the slow-moving, Category 5 hurricane.
Forecasters say Dorian is expected to arrive along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts sometime midweek. Approximately 1,000 South Carolina National Guard soldiers and airmen have reported to their units throughout the state to provide support to state partners.
McMaster acknowledged the difficulty in moving so many people out of the area at one time but said he couldn’t risk undertaking the evacuations in stages. The state Public Safety and Transportation departments said they would reverse the direction of traffic along evacuation routes to ease the flow.
“Hurricane Dorian is the strongest storm to ever threaten the state of Florida on the East Coast,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Moskowitz. “No matter what path this storm takes, our state will be impacted. We will continue to work around the clock to prepare.”
North Carolina also “has to take this storm seriously,” Governor Roy Cooper said Sunday. “Be ready. It might be far away, but it is already kicking up rip tides at our coast.”
Florida’s Governor DeSantis has authorized a total of 2,272 Florida Guardsmen activated for Hurricane Dorian response operations, with an additional 2,162 Guardsmen supporting, bringing the total number of responding soldiers and airmen to 4,434.
The Florida National Guard is currently staffing and supporting the State Logistics Readiness Center in Orlando and providing military liaison officers to 17 counties. The Florida National Guard is well-equipped with high-wheeled vehicles, helicopters, boats and generators. A Helicopter Search and Rescue Team is now on standby with eight choppers to provide search and rescue capabilities.
To help residents and emergency personnel stay connected in the wake of Hurricane Dorian, Comcast has announced it is opening its network of almost 200,000 Xfinity WiFi hotspots throughout Florida to anyone who needs them, including non-Xfinity customers, free of charge.
The Department of Management Services has set up an emergency telecommunications provider coordination group to ensure coordinated recovery efforts to aid in the emergency response and recovery after the storm has passed.
Verizon is offering unlimited calling, texting and data for customers in the path of the hurricane. Verizon’s prepaid, postpaid and small-business customers in the path of the hurricane will have unlimited calling, data and texting from September 2nd – September 9th.
AT&T announced it’s waiving data overages in affected Florida areas from September 2 through September 8.
Power outages are expected and Florida Power & Light says there are almost 28,000 linemen, tree crews, and support personnel staged around Florida to help quickly restore power.
Eric Silagy, president and CEO of Florida Power & Light said, “Hurricane Dorian’s track remains unpredictable and there is a razor-thin margin of hurricane force-winds impacting Florida’s east coast; therefore, at this juncture, it is impossible to predict how many FPL customers may lose power as a result of this powerful hurricane.”
“Do not make assumptions about the current track of this storm. Stay vigilant and be prepared. If you live in the cone of uncertainty, you could experience severe weather and power outages,” Silagy said. “Even if Florida doesn’t take a direct impact, we anticipate significant effects, including powerful tropical storm-force winds, possible tornadoes, storm surge and flooding from this slow-moving storm. These effects will create challenges with trees toppling, debris and vegetation blowing into our lines, which may require crews to repair large parts of our energy grid.”
Florida Power & Light anticipates that a large portion of its service area will feel the impacts of potential tropical storm-force winds from Dorian and may experience power outages. Customers are urged to take the time now to prepare for potentially prolonged outages.
The Florida Highway Patrol is escorting fuel trucks to ensure fuel reaches critical areas more quickly. The state is working closely with the fuel industry to ensure there is an adequate fuel supply statewide.
The State of Florida is working with industry partners to identify additional resources, including trucks and staff to distribute more fuel throughout the state.
Florida officials are working with ports along the East Coast of Florida to monitor resources and assist with closures and re-openings.
Through Executive Order 19-189, Governor DeSantis waived hours of service and truck weights for fuel trucks. Neighboring states, specifically Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia have waived requirements as well so that fuel can be moved more quickly and efficiently.
Food and Water
Florida has 819,000 gallons of water and 1.8 million meals ready for distribution.
The state has submitted a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, for nine million liters of water and 6.5 million shelf-stable meals.
The state has pre-deployed 860,000 bottles of water to preparing counties, and the state has 730,000 pounds of ice ready for distribution.
Approximately 1,000 South Carolina National Guard Soldiers and Airmen have reported to their units throughout the state to provide support to state partners.
Twenty urban search and rescue teams are on standby for deployment. HazMat Teams have been identified across 12 departments that will be available for response. Six FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Teams are on standby.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has more than 800 officers and resources prepared for potential deployment wherever they are needed. They have a variety of specialized equipment, including, aircraft, shallow draft boats, ATVs, airboats and four-wheel drive vehicles to assist with recovery.