As Puerto Rico’s citizens breathed a sigh of relief Thursday morning at having avoided major damage from Hurricane Dorian, Florida declared a state of emergency and residents buckled down for the storm’s anticipated arrival toward the end of the Labor Day holiday weekend.
The latest computer modeling of Dorian’s path showed it arriving as a strong storm, potentially a category 3 hurricane, on Florida’s east coast. The National Hurricane Center in Miami warned of dangerous storm surge and hurricane-force winds but said “it is too soon to determine where these hazards will occur”.
Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency and urged residents to take precautionary measures including stockpiling water, canned food and other emergency supplies.
“Dorian could be a major hurricane,” DeSantis tweeted. “All Floridians on the east coast should have seven days of supplies, prepare their homes and follow the track closely.”
Across much of Florida’s east coast, residents began flocking to the grocery stores and gas stations, stocking up in anticipation of the storm.
There were lines at many gas stations in south Florida as people began filling gas cans and topping off their gas tanks. Some residents using community Facebook groups gave updates on new shipments of water to restock the nearly empty shelves at local grocery stores.
DeSantis said he had spoken on the phone with Donald Trump, who pledged support.
“Hurricane Dorian looks like it will be hitting Florida late Sunday night,” Trump tweeted on Thursday morning. (The timing of the arrival of the hurricane was not settled and anyone in its path was advised to track the storm.) “Be prepared and please follow State and Federal instructions, it will be a very big Hurricane, perhaps one of the biggest!”
The hurricane center advised that heavy rains from the storm were expected to occur over portions of the Bahamas, Florida, and elsewhere in the southeastern United States “later this week and into early next week”.
With tens of thousands of Puerto Rican residents still living in temporary shelters after the devastation in 2017 from Hurricane Maria, which killed about 3,000 people and destroyed key infrastructure, the island had feared another devastating blow as Dorian bore down.
But a calm day dawned on Thursday. “We’re happy because there are no damages to report,” Culebra mayor William Solís told the Associated Press.
Several hundred customers were without power across Puerto Rico, said Angel Figueroa, president of a union that represents power workers.
Police said an 80-year-old man in the northern town of Bayamon died Wednesday after he fell trying to climb up to his roof to clear it of debris ahead of the storm.
Power outages and flooding hit the US Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico’s east, but officials there likewise breathed a sigh of relief.
“We are grateful that it wasn’t a stronger storm,” government spokesman Richard Motta told AP.