Hurricane Dorian is forecast to intensify into a major hurricane and pose a significant threat to much of Florida over Labor Day Weekend. Governor Ron DeSantis has now expanded the state of emergency to include the entire state.
Dorian could reach Category 4 hurricane strength, with winds of at least 130 mph, before making landfall early Monday somewhere along the Florida or Georgia coast.
Forecasters expect the storm to affect the entire Florida peninsula.
However, it’s now looking like a different story for the northwestern part of state.
“There is a stronger suggestion now that there will be a turn to the north at some point over the state of Florida,” Florida Public Radio Emergency Management Network Chief Meteorologist Jeff Huffman said Thursday on the NPR program Here and Now. “So, our member stations and listeners out in the Panhandle, there’s still a concern that there’ll be some impacts there, but maybe not direct impacts.”
Hurricane Dorian continues to strengthen and will become a major hurricane today. Dorian is expected to turn northward after moving into the southern Florida peninsula early next week. Stay tuned for updates on this situation. pic.twitter.com/piDpXnu4nX
— NWS Mobile (@NWSMobile) August 30, 2019
“We were a little bit concerned about the system going through the state and maybe coming out in the Gulf of Mexico,” said John Dosh, emergency manager and acting Public Safety Director for Escambia County.
“Although that’s not totally off the table, it looks like it’s less of a chance now than what it has been. So, if the trend continues with this northerly turn that looks better and better for our part of Florida.”
Despite this welcome news, the forecast could still change, so Dosh and his team will continue to monitor and plan for the storm.
Throughout the week, emergency managers from the area have been working with state officials on the potential of providing support to other parts of the state, if this region is not impacted. Simultaneously, local preparations are underway.
“We have been communicating with staff here at the county to make sure they’ve got everything they need to have and make sure they’re prepared,” Dosh said. “We’re making sure we stock up on any items like, for instance, fuel. We’ve asked for any county vehicles before the weekend to be topped off with fuel, that way we can get a resupply first part of the week to make sure all those tanks are topped off.”
Such preparedness exercises are being conducted across the region. Brad Baker, public safety director for Santa Rosa County, is leading the effort there.
“Well, we’re just visiting our hurricane preparedness plans, talking about the timing of the event and you know what we would need to do to secure the county buildings, put our storm shutters up, and you know, what do we need for the road department,” said Baker, adding that there’s still time for local residents to prepare, too.
“Just tidy up around your house with outdoor stuff that you’ve been meaning to get rid of anyway and go ahead and get those what we call ‘potential projectiles,’ get them to the landfill and just clean up,” Baker suggested.
Other than that, he recommends taking a little time to freshen up your disaster kit.
“You know, if you go to the store this weekend, make sure you’ve got enough water to get through for 72 (hours). Make sure your canned goods are all fresh and not expired,” he said.
Meantime, Okaloosa County is also gearing up.
“So, of course, we’re watching Hurricane (now) Dorian as it heads towards the eastern coast of Florida,” said Christopher Saul, spokesman for Okaloosa County.
Whether or not Dorian comes this way, he says this is a good time for a refresher on all aspects of your hurricane plans.
“Take a look at our website: www.myokaloosa.com,” Saul suggested as a first step to preparation. “You’ll find a bunch of links there, especially to our hurricane guide. You can find, if you live in Okaloosa County, what your evacuation zone is, the evacuation routes, and other essential information that you’re going to need to know in order to make the hurricane as painless as possible.”
— Florida Storms (@FloridaStorms) August 30, 2019
Based on recent forecasts, Hurricane Dorian will be a major hurricane as it approaches the east coast of Florida, with tropical storm force winds likely on Sunday and landfall on Monday.
For many in the state, (parts) Labor Day may be a washout. But, the storm won’t be a factor here in Northwest.
The word from local emergency management officials is carry on, but be prepared and stay alert.
“The big message we want to get out is for everybody to pay attention,” said Escambia’s John Dosh. “Based upon everything we’re seeing, our potential for impacts is going to be very minimal at this point, but the message is to stay tuned. Don’t disconnect over the holiday weekend.”
Dosh recommends that residents to stay connected with preferred media outlets to keep up on the latest developments with the hurricane and ‘make sure you understand what’s going on.’