Hurricane Dorian Now Ferocious Cat 5 Storm, Palm Beach Orders Evacuations, Schools Close
Update 7:45 p.m. Sunday:
Hurricane Dorian continues to be a dangerous storm, packing winds up to 185 mph and gusts over 200 mph.
Dorian's western eyewall approached the eastern tip of Grand Bahama Island at 7:00 p.m. As of 5 PM Sunday, the storm was sitting 175 miles east of West Palm Beach and had slowed down, now moving west at only 5 mph.
All new watches and warnings are listed below, from the National Hurricane Center:
Even though the center of Hurricane Dorian is forecast to remain offshore, Meteorologist Megan Borowski says there is an increasing chance of significant impacts.
“We’re looking at a track - and this is just the center - that’s only 30 or so miles offshore. Even though the storm might fluctuate in intensity some over the next two or three days, Dorian is expected to grow in geographic size. That’s why we’re becoming more concerned about hurricane or tropical storm conditions affecting the warned areas.”
Official updates from the National Hurricane Center on Hurricane Dorian are available at hurricanes.gov.
At press conferences Sunday afternoon and evening, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Hurricane Dorian could be the most powerful storm to threaten Florida since the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 which obliterated much of the Keys.
"You do not want to mess with a storm that is going 185 mph," said De Santis.
Without directly acknowledging the deaths that ocurred at the Rehabillitation Center of Hollywood Hills in hellish conditions after Hurricane Irma, the governor said that Mary Mayhew, Secretary for Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration, reported to him that every coastal assisted living facility and nursing home from Palm Beach to Nassau County has a generator or an evacuation plan.
The governor said that by Sunday night, 4,500 members of the National Guard would be activated and prepared to respond.
DeSantis told Floridians in vulnerable areas to pay special attention to evacuation orders. Even if a voluntary evacuation has been issued, people whose homes have flooded before "really need to seriously consider heeding that and evacuating," said the governor.
As Palm Beach County issued evacuation orders for Zones A and B—which includes mobile homes, low-lying areas and flood-risk areas—it urged residents to think about moving to safer ground close by. From the county statement:
"If you choose to not evacuate to a shelter, please evacuate miles not hundreds of miles. Most of Palm Beach County is not being evacuated and residents should shelter within the county if possible. With the unpredictable nature of Hurricane Dorian, evacuating north is not recommended."
The county is opening nine of its 15 shelters, plus one special needs and one pet-friendly shelter, at 1 p.m.
The special needs shelter is equipped for people who are ordinarily able to stay at home, perhaps with a caregiver. It is not meant for people who are hospitalized. It's equipped for 480 people with special needs such as Alzheimer's, electricity-dependent medical care, and people with chronic illnesses – plus their caregivers.
The shelter allowed people to pre-register, and also has a triage system for walk-ins.
Youth Services director Tammy Fields recommends people showing up to the special needs shelter bring layers of clothing – they keep it cold for sanitary purposes, so extra clothing and blankets will likely make it more comfortable. They are equipped to serve everyone low-sodium meals, but those with other dietary restrictions should also bring food to meet their needs.
Broward County has not issued evacuation orders, but because of the risk of power outages, it has opened four special needs shelters, including one pediatric shelter, for people who are medically vulnerable during a storm. There is a special needs registry, and Broward is still accepting applications. People can register for a space at a special needs shelter in Broward by calling the Emergency Hotline at 311 or 954-831-4000. Other updates from Broward's emergency operations:
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and North Perry are operating normally as of Sunday morning. Only ticketed passengers can park at FLL. There are some cancellations; passengers must check with their airline for details.
- Florida Department of Transportation will start a lockdown of drawbridges at 12Noon today. Broward County will start a lockdown of the following drawbridges at 2:30PM today: Andrews Avenue Bridge, 3rd Avenue Bridge, and SW 4th / SW 7th Avenue Bridge. ALL drawbridges will be closed by 8PM today.
- Parks, Libraries and the Animal Care Shelter remain closed to the public until further notice.
- Port Everglades is closing at 6:00 p.m. today. Cruise ship schedules have been adjusted; passengers must check with their cruise line for details.
School districts are monitoring the situation closely--many public schools serve as emergency shelters. As of Sunday afternoon, public schools in Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach County announced they would be closed on Tuesday. The districts were already planning to be closed for the Labor Day holiday on Monday.
At a press conference in Riviera Beach, FPL President and CEO, Eric Silagy said the power company has "the largest workforce we've ever deployed" in place, but he still urged residents to stay vigilant and be prepared for outages.
"Every mile closer makes a difference in a storm of this magnitude and strength," he said.
Silagy described an FPL worker who was t-boned on the way to work this weekend by a driver who ran a red light. He urged Floridians to be cautious when stoplights go out. And he asked drivers to move over if they see official trucks on the road.
The U.S. Coast Guard intends to set Port Condition ZULU for Hurricane Dorian as of 6:00 p.m. today—which means sustained tropical storm force winds are expected to reach South Florida within 12 hours. At that time, Port Everglades will be closed to all operations unless specifically approved by the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port. Port Everglades has received approval from the U.S. Coast Guard to allow petroleum trucks to continue making deliveries to retail gas stations until early Monday morning or until winds reach 35 miles per hour for safety reasons.