Gov. Ron DeSantis warned Floridians to heed local evacuation calls as Hurricane Dorian could be a “Category 4-plus” storm that lingers over the state after making landfall early next week on the East Coast.
The governor, who has taken steps to deal with a rush on gas stations, said Friday the pace of the storm in the Atlantic is giving people time to prepare. However, the intensity of the hurricane means people should stock up on at least seven days of food and water for what could be a “multi-day” crossing of the state by the storm, he said.
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Complicating the situation, it remains unclear where on the East Coast the storm will make landfall --- and where it will go from there.
“This is a major event, we will still have a degree of uncertainty,” said DeSantis, who has issued a state of emergency for all 67 counties.
“I think if you look at the different forecasts, you see potential major impacts for places in South Florida, potentially going all the way up the coast of Florida,” said DeSantis following an update at the Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee. “Some forecasts have it going through the center of the state, similar to kind of what Irma did in terms of going up the middle. And you still have some forecasts that say it’s going to go across the state and end up in the Gulf of Mexico.”
DeSantis, who was scheduled later Friday to travel to Palm Beach and Orange counties, said the storm is expected to be a major hurricane, a “Category 4 potentially, even Category 4-plus.”
Hurricane Irma, which barreled up the peninsula in 2017 was a Category 4 storm. Hurricane Michael which devastated parts of the Panhandle last year, was a Category 5 storm, with sustained winds of 160 mph.
The “cone of probability,” which offers a general idea of where Dorian could make landfall, stretched Friday morning from the lower Florida Keys to south of Savannah, Ga., though it was centered on the East Coast of Central Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Tropical-storm force winds are expected to reach Florida by Sunday morning, with hurricane winds hitting Tuesday morning.
DeSantis advised people who experienced flooding in past hurricanes to anticipate flooding with Dorian and to heed local evacuation warnings.
When the state issues evacuation orders, as the path of the storm is better known, tolls will be lifted and shoulders of roads will be opened in some areas to speed the flow of traffic, DeSantis said.
Adj. Gen. James Eifert said 2,000 members of the Florida National Guard have been activated, and the number is expected to double by the end of Saturday.
“We’re trying to be responsive but not overzealous,” Eifert said.
The state has close to 1 million gallons of water and nearly 2 million meals ready to be distributed where needed and is working with Publix and Walmart to ensure their stores are able to restock quickly.
With local communities expected to begin issuing evacuation orders today, DeSantis has directed the Florida Highway Patrol to escort fuel trucks from ports to gas stations, as demand is already being stretched across the state.
“Fort Myers, I think they’re at 47 percent of the gas stations there, basically the same as Miami, and Miami, man, there were lines everywhere there,” DeSantis said. “I think part of that is because people are taking steps to prepare, which is not necessarily a bad thing.”
DeSantis issued an executive order Wednesday that lifted restrictions on hours of service and truck weights for fuel trucks, due to reports of high demand for gas.
DeSantis has asked neighboring states to do the same.
The state’s largest electricity companies, Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy Florida, issued advisories Thursday to customers warning of extended power outages and restoration challenges.
The U.S. Coast Guard has designated conditions at Port Canaveral, JaxPort and the Port of Fernandina as “X-Ray,” indicating sustained gale-force winds between 39 mph and 54 mph are expected within 48 hours. The ports remained open Friday.