Florida declares state of emergency as Hurricane Dorian continues to strengthen

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Hurricane Dorian picked up speed as it passed Puerto Rico Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Hurricane Center. It could make landfall in Florida on Monday as a Category 3 storm.

The newly formed hurricane was about 45 miles northwest of St. Thomas as of the 5 p.m. update, which showed Dorian has maximum sustained winds of 80 miles per hour and picked up the pace a bit, moving west at 14 miles per hour. The new update tilted the storm’s potential landfall slightly more south along the Florida coastline.

“All indications are that by this Labor Day weekend, a powerful hurricane will be near or over the Florida peninsula,” NHC forecasters wrote.

As Hurricane Dorian nears Florida’s Atlantic coast, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Wednesday afternoon for 26 counties in the storm’s path, spanning from Nassau to Monroe counties. The order also extends inland to counties like Orange County. The state Emergency Operations Center is also activating to Level 2, he announced, bringing in more emergency management staff to coordinate a response to the storm.

“It’s important for Floridians on the East Coast to monitor this storm closely,” DeSantis said in a statement, urging Floridians to have seven days of supplies on hand. “I will continue to monitor Hurricane Dorian closely with emergency management officials. The state stands ready to support all counties along the coast as they prepare.”

Declaring a state of emergency gives state agencies more flexibility to send help to affected counties and local authorities, from letting the Department of Transportation waive tolls, reverse traffic flow for evacuations or close roads, to allowing buildings and public schools to be made available as shelters.

The second hurricane of the season is expected to bring up to six inches of rain to Puerto Rico and the U.S. British Virgin Islands, according to the National Hurricane Center. Isolated areas could see up to 10 inches of rain and life-threatening flash floods, surf and rip current conditions will be possible.

Nearly all of the intensity models show Dorian becoming a stronger hurricane in the next couple days, when it passes near or to the east of the Turks and Caicos islands and the Bahamas by Friday and Saturday, according to the advisory. Forecasters warn the storm could grow in size after it clears Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

By the time Dorian nears Florida’s east coast, it could be a Category 3 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds at 115 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center. Florida could start seeing tropical storm force winds Saturday night.

Source: Miami Herald

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