Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has declared a State of Emergency in every Florida county, held a Thursday afternoon briefing at the Duval County Emergency Operations Center ahead of Hurricane Dorian.
“Stay alert here in North Florida. It may go south but up here, we're going to have some impact as well, and we need to be alert to that and stay vigilant,” DeSantis said.
The governor said some school closures have already been announced, primarily in Central Florida.
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Among the schools he said would be closed Friday through Tuesday: Daytona State College, Valencia College and the University of Central Florida. Jacksonville University also announced it would close at 2 p.m. Friday through Monday, Sept. 1. The private university in Arlington said it was too soon to say when normal operations would resume. DeSantis said any additional state college and university closures would be posted by the Department of Education.
Earlier Thursday, Superintendent Diana Greene said Duval County public schools would be open Friday and most Friday night football games would proceed.
JEA CEO Aaron Zahn said at the briefing that Jacksonville’s public utility is fully prepared for the storm.
“We have taken a number of lessons learned from Matthew and Irma, especially on the water side with regards to having backup power generation for many of our lift stations," he said.
He added JEA has backup generators for the rest of the county and other counties JEA serves. Zahn said he has also been in contact with JEA’s counterparts in Texas and has them on standby to assist Jacksonville if needed thanks to a mutual aid agreement.
Among other preparations, DeSantis said the state has activated a partnership with the travel company Expedia to make available hotel rooms easy to search for evacuees. An emergency accommodations portal is at Expedia.com/Florida.
DeSantis also reminded those who are caring for the elderly to have a plan in place for what happens when the power goes out. Although a new state law requires nursing homes to have backup power generators, he said not all nursing homes have complied with that order. A searchable database is available online where nursing homes residents’ loved ones can look up whether their facility has a generator.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said it’s important for people in Jacksonville to see the relationship the city has with the governor and his team.
“You know, if we get an evacuation situation, the partnership will help us with how roads are handled and managed if we get to where we’re having to shut down bridges and work with the mayors of the Beaches and then reopen bridges. [There’s] funding. I mean, there's all this stuff that goes into this,” Curry said, adding, “So governor, we’re grateful that you’re here.”