DeSantis: Heed evacuation orders and other local directives

St Augustine residents are under mandatory evacuation as it is still unclear when or if the catastrophic storm surge of the Category 4 hurricane will make it to shore.  It’s at a near standstill, moving just 1 mph to the west; yet, meteorologists are saying even a slight deviation to the current trajectory could cause Dorian to crash into the state’s East Coast.

It is the slow-moving nature of Dorian that has sparked concerns that electricity restoration as well as search-and-rescue operations could get delayed by high winds from the lingering storm.

“People along the coast from Palm Beach County to the Georgia border need to heed evacuation orders and other directives from local officials,” Governor Ron DeSantis said while addressing reporters at the state Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.  “This has been frustrating for a lot of people because it seems like we have been talking about it for a long time.”

“Get out now while you have time and there is fuel available,” DeSantis said.  “Gas stations along evacuation routes will remain open and you’ll be safe on the roads.”

Florida Power and Light Company, which serves 10 million people through roughly 4.9 million customer accounts, has staged nearly 17,000 workers, along with fuel and equipment, from St. Augustine to the South Florida Fairgrounds in West Palm Beach.

“We expected that we might be seeing some tropical-storm-force winds by this point,” Florida Power & Light spokesman Dave Reuter told Historic City News.  “But that’s been pushed off until later today.”

From the company’s command center in West Palm Beach, Reuter referred to the anxiety that some FPL customers are beginning to feel.

“The slow forward motion of the storm, along with a still unpredictable path, could result in prolonged outages,” Reuter said.  “Sustained winds will have to drop below 35 mph for FPL to send in crews to address outages.”

Coastal areas face life-threatening storm surge and destructive hurricane-force winds from Dorian, described by the National Hurricane Center as “catastrophic,” even if the eyewall remains offshore when it makes an anticipated northern turn toward Georgia and the Carolinas.

“Even if it’s offshore, you’re looking at strong-enough winds where there is going to be widespread power outages, particularly along the coast,” Governor DeSantis said. “And, people should also be concerned about the water. We had areas all the way up to Jacksonville flood during (2016’s Hurricane) Matthew, flood during (2017’s Hurricane) Irma. If that happened in those two storms, this is going to be close enough that you’re probably going to flood again.”

HURRICANE DORIAN BY THE NUMBERS:

  • Lake Okeechobee is at 13.74 feet.
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers anticipated a rise of 2 feet to 3.5 feet from Hurricane Dorian.
  • Comcast plans to open almost 200,000 Xfinity Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the state.
  • More than 1,000 state law enforcement officers were on standby for potential deployment.
  • About 4,434 members of the Florida National Guard had been activated.
  • Nearly 40 general shelters and 11 special-needs shelters had been opened across the state.
  • Ports along the coast have closed or will close to incoming vessels.
  • Seventy-two nursing homes and assisted living facilities had evacuated along the coast.
  • Some hospitals from Palm Beach north had started evacuation plans.
  • Airports in areas such as West Palm Beach, Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale suspended operations Monday.
  • Tolls were lifted by DeSantis around Jacksonville on Monday, joining Florida’s Turnpike and other roads in South and Central Florida where tolls had already been suspended.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.