TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (The News Service of Florida) — All of Florida’s East Coast remains a potential landing spot for Hurricane Dorian, which could crash ashore as a Category 4 storm early next week with winds topping 130 mph, the National Hurricane Center said Thursday.
As the system’s northern movement slowed in the open waters north-northwest of Puerto Rico, the center said “it is too soon to specify where along the Florida East Coast the greatest impacts could occur.”
The state and communities and residents up and down the coast began changing plans and preparing for what likely will be a punishing storm. Dorian also will disrupt the traditional end-of-summer Labor Day weekend.
Florida State University moved its Saturday football game against Boise State from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. Also, the state Department of Environmental Protection canceled its Blue-Green Algae Task Force meeting, which had been scheduled for Friday in Gainesville.
However, the uncertainty of Dorian’s path is holding up other storm decisions.
Mark Wool, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Tallahassee, warned people to make plans now as roads and hotels can quickly get clogged.
“The key message I want to get across to folks is that I know everybody has plans for the holiday weekend, but you need to stay on top of the latest updates,” Wool said. “There is still a wide range of model solutions out there. They are not converging yet. Models have the system going anywhere from Louisiana to Canada.”
State Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said rather than getting fixed on tracking models that may bounce around throughout the day, people along the East Coast should be planning for a Category 3 or Category 4 landfall.
“Continue to pay attention,” Moskowitz said. “I don’t want someone to say, ‘It’s going to spin off the coast’ and then they don’t go and make a plan. The only thing that has been consistent about the storm is its inconsistencies.”
The U.S. Coast Guard has placed many seaports, including ports on the East Coast and parts of the Gulf Coast, under a condition “Whiskey,” which means sustained gale force winds may arrive within 72 hours.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, who spoke with President Donald Trump about federal assistance Wednesday night, issued an executive order Wednesday that declared a state of emergency in 26 counties. He noted that the order allows mobilization of the Florida National Guard.
But “with a track like this, it’s uncertain where to deploy them,” DeSantis acknowledged after a briefing Thursday morning at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.
“You can make the case for places like Miami and the Keys to get impacted. You could make the case for it to be northern Florida,” DeSantis said.
The “cone of probability,” which offers a general idea of where the storm could make landfall, stretched Thursday morning from the central Florida Keys to south of Savannah, Ga., though it was centered on the East Coast of Central Florida.
Tropical-storm force winds are expected to reach Florida on Sunday morning, with hurricane winds hitting Monday morning.
House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee, D-Miami, called on DeSantis to lift toll collections to help Floridians evacuate.
“Suspending tolls would aid residents and visitors in obtaining supplies or quickly and efficiently evacuating, if required,” McGhee said in a prepared statement.
DeSantis said the state is working to bring additional fuel to the East Coast, noting reports of fuel shortages have been reported in Brevard County.
Also, DeSantis said he anticipates the executive order could be expanded from the 26 counties, which include all of the East Coast and some inland areas.