FLORIDA — Every county in Florida is under a state of emergency as the state prepares for what may be the strongest hurricane to hit its east coast in nearly three decades.
At 105 mph, Dorian is the strongest storm of the Atlantic hurricane season so far. If it makes landfall as a Category 4 storm on Monday as forecast, with sustained winds of around 130 mph, it will be the strongest hurricane to strike Florida’s East Coast since Andrew in 1992, according to CNN Meteorologist Brandon Miller. By late Thursday, Dorian was a Category 2 storm.
It will also be the fourth year in a row of a hurricane of any strength hitting Florida, the most years in a row since the 1940s.
With the devastation of 2018’s Hurricane Michael still fresh in their minds, Floridians are not taking any chances.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday declared a state of emergency for all 67 Florida counties. The state has 819,000 gallons of water and 1.8 million meals ready for distribution, he said in a news conference.
Warm waters are expected to strengthen the storm over the next few days. It’s on track to smack Grand Bahama island on Sunday and likely crash somewhere along the Florida or Georgia coasts around Monday morning.
Because it’s four days out, the range of potential landfall spots stretches – from the Florida Keys to southeast Georgia. And the center may pause at sea shortly before landfall, leaving its outer bands to drench much of Florida with lots of rain, CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.
The affected areas in the US will feel tropical-storm force winds of at least 39 mph as early as Saturday evening.
“People have got to be ready before Sunday,” Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center, told CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday.
Floridians are lining up for gas and food
Officials, including Florida’s governor, have urged people to have seven days of food and medicine available — and coastal residents already are stripping store shelves bare with Dorian in mind.
Plenty of people also were stocking up on fuel Thursday along Florida’s Atlantic coast. That included Arthur Sanders, who waited in a long line to get gas in Port St. Lucie.
“They were directing traffic and had part of the parking lot blocked off,” Sanders said.
In Port Orange, 40 miles northeast of Orlando, Brooke Koontz found shelves of bread and water nearly empty at a Walmart on Wednesday. There were also slim pickings among canned goods, toiletries and bananas, too.
Thankfully, soon after she arrived, employees brought out a pallet of water.
“It was gone in seconds,” she told CNN. “People were trying to race.”
Long lines and low supplies have been seen at several stores in the Miami area, CNN affiliate WSVN reported.
States of emergency have been declared in more than 25 Florida counties. Numerous officials are urging residents to get ready.
“Get water, get gas, get cash out of the ATMs,” West Palm Beach Mayor Keith James said on CNN Thursday. “The more we hear about this storm, it sounds like a serious one.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp told residents of his state to keep their eyes on Dorian, too. On Thursday, Kemp issued a state of emergency for 12 counties
Airlines, the military and athletes are adjusting
The US Navy said it is moving more than 40 planes from Jacksonville to bases in Michigan, Ohio and Texas on Thursday, ensuring Dorian won’t reach them.
The US Air Force is evacuating 16 KC-135 aircraft from MacDill Air Force Base near Tampa to McConnell Air Force Base near Wichita, Kansas, according to a US Air Force official.
Florida State University had been scheduled to play its season-opening game off campus, in Jacksonville near the Atlantic coast. But because Dorian will be approaching, the game has been moved to FSU’s normal home field in Tallahassee, further inland.
Because Dorian could impact Florida’s Kennedy Space Center, NASA has said it will have a crawler-transporter move NASA’s mobile launcher Friday from launch pad 39B to the Vehicle Assembly Building about 3.5 miles away. The launcher was being tested on the pad in anticipation of future Space Launch System missions.
Dorian has cleared the Caribbean Sea, but not before lashing the British and US Virgin Islands — first as a tropical storm and then as a Category 1 hurricane — on Wednesday.
Puerto Rico, still recovering from Hurricane Maria in 2017, expected the storm to exacerbate the existing damage to infrastructure, but the island was largely spared.