Governor expands emergency to all 67 counties

By Scott Powers
Florida Politics

Faced with a major hurricane that still could land anywhere on Florida’s east coast, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he has expanded his emergency declaration to all 67 counties.

Speaking in the Brevard County Emergency Management Operations Center in Rockledge, DeSantis said he also will be asking President Donald Trump to issue a federal emergency declaration.

“All residents, especially those along the east coast, need to be prepared for possible impacts,” DeSantis said. “As it increases in strength, this storm has the potential to severely damage homes, businesses and buildings, which is why all Floridians should remain vigilant. Do not wait until it is too late to make a plan.”

The governor announced the expanded emergency as Hurricane Dorian makes its slow slog through the western Atlantic from the Caribbean toward Florida, where it is expected to arrive between late Sunday and late Monday, almost anywhere along Florida’s east coast.

DeSantis’ initial declaration Wednesday covered only 26 counties.

DeSantis called the uncertain landfall the greatest challenge at this point both for nervous Floridians and officials trying to position supplies and resources ahead of the storm’s arrival.

The state has 800,000 gallons of water and about one million meals available to provide to storm stricken areas. Florida, federal authorities, and disaster aid groups also are wanting to position all other storm relief equipment and supplies.

This is DeSantis’ first hurricane as governor and it’s potential is major. Dorian is forecast to arrive as a Category 3 hurricane, capable of causing catastrophic damage. It also is large and slow moving, expanding its potential impact.

“Our plan is to do more prepositioning of assets,” he said when asked what he is hoping to do differently this year. But with the storm’s uncertain course, “If it’s the entire state, up and down the coastline, that’s going to be a challenge.”

DeSantis urged Floridians to pay attention to news reports to keep up with prospects of evacuations. Historic City News will continue to publish through the duration of the storm.

When enough is known to announce evacuations, DeSantis said he has asked the Florida Department of Transportation to waive tolls on the toll roads.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran is meeting by phone at 3 p.m. Thursday with school district superintendents and university officials to assess what they need do, DeSantis said.

The governor cited gasoline positioning as a major challenge. He said the state has significant reservoirs of gas now, but he is asking for additional supplies to be brought in from Georgia and Alabama.

DeSantis said his administration is also working on water supplies, seeking to have more trucked in from out of state.

He said he spoke with Trump, who offered his full support.

DeSantis said he is counting on operators and local officials to make sure that nursing homes and other highly-vulnerable facilities are prepared. This comes after the 2017 tragedy at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where 12 patients died from heat in the sweltering, powerless days following Hurricane Irma.

Florida now requires nursing homes to have emergency generators or plans for evacuation to places that do. DeSantis said 94.6 percent of the state’s nursing homes are in compliance.

Earlier this week Hollywood police arrested four people from the 2017 tragedy, charging some with homicide. More arrests are expected. DeSantis cited the arrests as clear warning to nursing home operators to be prepared this time.

“It sends a very clear message that if you are entrusted with these people’s lives, it’s really your responsibility,” DeSantis said.

This notice appeared in Florida Politics. Used with permission, Peter Schorsch, Publisher.  Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. All content is owned by Extensive Enterprises Media. All Rights Reserved.