Devastation from Hurricane Dorian is threatening 10 million people as it heads towards Florida, with the potential to become the most powerful storm to hit the state’s east coast in nearly 30 years.
The storm strengthened into an “extremely dangerous” Category three in the afternoon and was expected to become a potentially catastrophic Category four with winds of almost 140 mph before blowing ashore late on Monday or early Tuesday
The National Hurricane Centre’s projected track showed Dorian hitting around Palm Beach County, where President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is situated, then moving inland over the Orlando area.
But because of the difficulty of predicting a storm’s course this far out, forecasters cautioned that practically all of Florida, including Miami and Fort Lauderdale, could be in harm’s way.
They warned, too, that Dorian was moving more slowly, which could subject the state to a drawn-out and more destructive pummelling from wind, storm surge and heavy rain.
President Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida and authorised the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster-relief efforts.
As Dorian closed in, it played havoc with people’s Labour Day weekend plans. Major airlines began allowing travellers to change their reservations without a fee.
The major cruise lines began rerouting their ships. Disney World and the other big resorts in Orlando found themselves in the storm’s projected path.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 29, 2019
However, with Dorian still days away and its track uncertain, Disney and other major resorts held off announcing any closings, and Florida authorities ordered no immediate mass evacuations.
“Sometimes if you evacuate too soon, you may evacuate into the path of the storm if it changes,” Gov Ron DeSantis said.
He added that when the time comes to order evacuations, he won’t do it “willy-nilly” and “tell everybody to leave because that may create some problems as well” — as happened in 2017, when then-Gov Rick Scott told Floridians across the state to “get out now” ahead of Hurricane Irma and an epic traffic jam resulted.
As Dorian drew closer, homeowners and businesses rushed to cover their windows with plywood.
Supermarkets ran out of bottled water, and long lines formed at petrol stations, with fuel shortages reported in some places.
But the governor said the Florida Highway Patrol would begin escorting fuel trucks to help them get past the lines of waiting motorists and replenish service stations.