MIAMI (Reuters) – Florida’s governor on Friday urged residents in the state to stock up on at least a week’s worth of food, water and medicine and to prepare to lose power and cellphone service for days after Hurricane Dorian makes landfall early next week.
The slow march and rising intensity of the storm, which is moving in a northwestern direction to the Bahamas, has alarmed forecasters who worry parts of Florida will be walloped by strong winds, a storm surge and heavy rain for an extended period.
“I think there’s a pretty high degree of certainty that this is going to be a major hurricane,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said in a news conference from the state emergency operations centre in Tallahassee. He said residents should prepare for a “multiday event.”
Florida is under a declaration of emergency, and DeSantis has activated 2,500 National Guard troops, with another 1,500 on standby. No evacuations were ordered as of early Friday, but many were expected as the storm’s path becomes clearer.
Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in 12 counties of neighbouring Georgia to assist with storm readiness, response and recovery.
Dorian began on Friday over the Atlantic as a Category 2 hurricane but was expected to be classified a Category 3 later in the day. It had maximum sustained winds near 110 miles per hour (175 km per hour), the Miami-based National Hurricane Center (NHC) said in its latest advisory at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT).
Forecasters predicted the storm would grow more ferocious as it gained fuel from the warm waters off Florida and be near the state’s peninsula late on Monday.
The NHC has issued a hurricane watch for northwestern Bahamas.
If, as expected, the storm reaches Category 4 over the weekend, its winds will blow at more than 130 mph (210 kph). There was concern it could slow from its current 12-mph (9-kph) march across the map, giving it more time to intensify.
Recent NHC weather models show Dorian smacking into the centre of Florida.
The storm could roll inland towards Orlando on Tuesday or early Wednesday. Other NHC weather models show it tracking south towards Miami before hitting the peninsula, or heading north to the Georgia coast.
Along with the dangerous winds, the storm was expected to drop 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) of rain on the coastal United States. “This rainfall may cause life-threatening flash floods,” NHC forecasters said.
President Donald Trump on Thursday cancelled a planned weekend trip to Poland, sending Vice President Mike Pence in his place, so he can make sure resources are properly directed for the storm.
“Now it’s looking like it could be an absolute monster,” Trump said in a video posted on Twitter, adding that food and water were being shipped to Florida.
Dorian could churn across dozens of launchpads owned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Air Force and companies such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
FUEL, NURSING HOMES
Some gas stations in Florida have run dry and others have long lines of cars, DeSantis said, adding that the state had eased regulations to allow higher-capacity trucks to transport fuel and to make it easier to bring in fuel from other states.
Gasoline prices at the pump are not expected to spike because of the storm, said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.com.
“This is not going to be a pricing event,” DeHaan said. “There are no refiners in Florida, there’s only a pipeline, and I can’t imagine that would be affected significantly. Fuel is flowing, and that’s the most important factor.”
Colonial Pipeline, which delivers fuels such as gasoline and diesel from the Gulf Coast to markets across the southern and eastern United States, said it was operating normally. It had no plans to shut down ahead of Dorian’s projected landfall.
Florida officials also were making sure all nursing homes and assisted living facilities had generators, and were checking with 107 facilities where information about generators was uncertain.
Earlier this week, police in Hollywood, Florida, charged four nursing home caregivers with causing the deaths of 12 patients who died in the sweltering heat of a post-hurricane power outage left by Hurricane Irma two years ago.
Reporting by Zach Fagenson in Miami and Peter Szekely in New York; additional reporting by Stephanie Kelly in New York; writing by Paul Simao; editing by Jane Merriman and Jonathan Oatis