The National Hurricane Center projects Hurricane Dorian will slow-punch its way north Tuesday and Wednesday approximately 40 to 50 miles off Florida’s Atlantic coast, its now Category 3-force winds blasting about 35 miles to the west.
That’s a far less menacing forecast than Floridians braced for last week, but that’s also a slim, and fickle, margin when it comes to dodging disaster.
“This thing is perilously close to the state. I think we should all hope and pray for the best, but we have to prepare that this could have major impacts on the state,” Gov. Ron DeSantis warned Monday during a press conference. “If you look at the National Hurricane Center’s current track, I think it ends up within 30 miles off the coast.
“Well, guess what?” he continued, “You do just a touch of a bump one way or another, and you have a dramatic difference all of a sudden.”
All it will take is a “nudge,” agreed National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham — and that nudge could come, as DeSantis said, “all of a sudden.”
“The cone is so important,” Graham said, noting with every new forecast, “we keep nudging [Dorian’s projected path] a little bit to the left,” which makes it “a little bit” closer to Florida’s coast.
With slow-moving, compact Dorian 100 miles east of West Palm Beach early Tuesday after devastating the northern Bahamas, much of the Florida’s I-95 corridor – as well as the Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina Atlantic seaboards – remained inside its “cone of uncertainty.”
Dorian’s early dire projections of a devastating Florida landfall resembled those of Hurricane Matthew in 2016, which instead skirted the Sunshine State’s coast before causing billions of dollars of wind and flooding damage in South Carolina.
But there was no consensus Tuesday morning as to where, or if, the powerful storm would make a U.S. landfall at all, with projections as varied as Cape Canaveral to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to Dorian spiraling into the North Atlantic.
The uncertainty prompted officials in the four states to order more than a million people to evacuate Monday, including in 11 Florida counties – Brevard, Duval, Flagler, Indian River, Martin, Nassau, Palm Beach, Putnam, St. Johns, St. Lucie and Volusia
Glades, Hendry, Highlands, Okeechobee and Osceola counties issued voluntary/phased evacuation orders for low-lying areas also on Monday.
As of early Tuesday, 110 hurricane shelters had been opened. There were few reports of traffic snarls on state highways; DeSantis ordered tolls suspended on turnpikes late last week.
Comcast Monday opened a network of almost 200,000 free Xfinity WiFi hotspots statewide while Charter Communications announced it had opened more than 32,000 WiFi hotspots from Volusia to Pinellas counties in Spectrum service areas across the state.
The state’s Department of Management Services [DMS] established an “emergency telecommunications provider coordination group” to coordinate recovery efforts after the storm has passed and nearly 25,000 linemen, tree crews, and support technicians staged around Florida to restore power.
The DMS said it had 819,000 gallons of water, 860,000 bottles of water, 730,000 pounds of ice and 1.8 million meals ready for distribution. It had submitted a request to FEMA for 9 million liters of water and 6.5 million shelf-stable meals.
More than total 2,276 Florida Guardsmen had been activated by DeSantis’ declaration of emergency last week with an additional 2,286 Guardsmen on alert. About 1,200 law enforcement officers from various agencies were on standby for potential deployment, according to the DMS.
The state’s Department of Health [DOH] said it has assembled 10 nursing strike teams, 10 medical task forces and 10 ambulance strike teams and conducted outreach to all 280 EMS providers in Florida to determine availability of addtional ambulance strike teams.
The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration announced it had activated the Emergency Status System statewide to confirm generators and utility company information, emergency contacts, and bed availability. Of the 3,062 licensed assisted living facilities, it said, 3,020 have a generator on site and five have emergency plans to evacuate if necessary.
All that remains is the waiting.
Which – considering Tuesday will be the state’s sixth day in a state of emergency, including four days in which Dorian’s projected landfall remained four days away – is getting on Floridians’ nerves.
“Pray for the storm to speed up, 1 mile per hour is ridiculous,” Rep. Kim Daniels, D-Jacksonville, a pastor and founder of Spoken Word Ministries, said on Facebook. “Prophesy ‘Dorian go east!’ … the name means ‘child of the sea,’ so Dorian go out to the sea … AWAY FROM THE EAST COAST.”