Hurricane Dorian gained strength, started to form a distinct eye and was upgraded to a Category 4 storm on Friday night as it churned across the Atlantic Ocean on a collision course with Florida.
President Trump also declared a state of emergency for Florida, which will ease federal recovery efforts expected because of Dorian. The move comes after Gov. Ron DeSantis requested help from Washington, D.C. in getting generators, water pumps and berms into place prior to Dorian’s arrival.
The president, who canceled a trip to Poland on Thursday because of Dorian, said he’s quite concerned for Floridians.
“It’s something every important for me to be here,” he said. “The storm looks like it could be a very, very big one indeed.”
The latest forecast showed the hurricane’s track shifting to the north a slight bit, with the center projected to possibly hit in the area of Martin and St. Lucie counties. But forecasters warn that it’s way too early to make a good prediction on where landfall will occur and say the latest atmospheric data shows the hurricane could start turning north before ever reaching the Florida coast.
On Friday afternoon, Dorian was generating winds of 115 mph. It reached Category 4-status – top winds near 140 mph – late Friday night.
Dorian’s progression across the Atlantic Ocean also has slowed, which means it has more time to strengthen. The latest projection shows it turning and moving north across the Sunshine State, with arrival in the local area possible sometime Tuesday or Wednesday.
But forecaster also have pointed out that if Dorian turns north early, it could just skim the east coast of the state. Or it could surprise everyone and cross the state into the Gulf of Mexico – forecasters say they just don’t have solid answers for anxious and scared residents yet.
On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis reiterated the need for all Floridians to prepare for the storm. On Thursday, the governor declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties because of the uncertainty of Dorian’s path and the areas of devastation that could be left behind.
“With the intensity of the storm, I think there’s a pretty high degree of certainty that this is going to be a major hurricane,” he said.
DeSantis added that while it’s bad news that Dorian slowed down and is getting stronger, it also means residents have longer to get prepared and make sure they have at least seven days of food, water and medicine on hand.
“This is potentially a multi-day event, where it will churn slowly across the state,” the governor said. “That obviously creates a whole host of issues.”
DeSantis added that Floridians also should be prepared to lose power to unknown stretches of time. And he said those who dealt with flooding issues during Hurricane Irma can probably expect the same issues this time around.
“So be prepared,” he said.
Along the coast, mandatory evacuations from beaches hadn’t been ordered by Friday afternoon. The community of Daytona Beach Shores did announce a voluntary evacuation. And Bethune-Cookman ordered all of its students off campus prior to the expected arrival of Dorian.
Locally, in Marion County, sandbag locations will remain open through Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. each day. Bags, sand, and shovels are provided free. County residents can pick up their sandbags at:
- Belleview Sports Complex, 6501 SE 107th St., Belleview;
- Dunnellon City Complex, 11924 Bostick Street, Dunnellon;
- Wrigley Field, 405 County Road E 316, Citra;
- East Marion Sports Complex – 14445 NE 14th Street Road, Silver Springs, FL
Ocala residents can get sandbags at:
- Reilly Arts Center, 500 NE 9th St., Ocala;
- Ed Crosky Recreation Center, 1510 NW Fourth St., Ocala.
The Marion County Division of Emergency Management also has activated its Citizen Information Line – (352)-369-7500 – which will remain open until 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 2. Further availability of the line will be announced in the coming days. And Marion County residents can sign for AlertMarion by clicking HERE.