Aug. 29 (UPI) — Americans along a great portion Florida’s Atlantic coastline are scrambling to prepare for Hurricane Dorian — the storm brewing in the Caribbean forecasters say could hit the U.S. Southeast at Category 4 strength.
The storm is forecast to arrive in Florida late Sunday or early Monday as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, prompting Floridians to expedite preparations. Meteorologists say it could be central Florida’s strongest storm in 30 years.
Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency Wednesday for the entire state, which was walloped by Category 3 Hurricane Irma just two years ago.
“It’s important for Floridians on the East Coast to monitor this storm closely,” DeSantis said. “Every Florida resident should have seven days of supplies, including food, water and medicine, and should have a plan in case of disaster.”
Florida has 1 million gallons of drinking water on hand, DeSantis said.
Florida Power and Light is taking every precautionary step available to be ready to restore electricity once Dorian has moved away.
“Our teams are gearing up now for Dorian,” the utility said Thursday. “We have nearly 5,000 workers ready and are working to secure additional crews in preparation for a projected landfall in our area.”
Dorian comes as FPL is actively working to bury more of its power lines underground.
“We spend billions of dollars every time the power goes out to get it back on,” state Rep. Randy Fine told UPI last month. “We import hundreds, if not thousands, if not tens of thousands of people to come down here to get our utilities back on. That costs hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Wednesday, Orlando International Airport canceled eight flights to Puerto Rico. Generators, tarps, batteries and battery-powered weather radios have disappeared from store shelves and Floridians are literally lining up to buy gasoline.
In East Orange County, which includes Orlando, workers have handed out shovels and bags to make sandbags.
Cruise lines are adjusting their schedules to avoid areas in Dorian’s path, and Royal Caribbean has shut down CocoCay, its private island in the Bahamas. All U.S. airlines are monitoring the storm’s progress to see how it affects flight schedules.
A college football game between Florida State and Boise State this weekend, which had been scheduled for Jacksonville, was moved Thursday to Tallahassee as a safety precaution — giving the Seminoles an extra home game for the season.
A Rolling Stones concert scheduled for Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium Saturday was moved to Friday. It’s the final show of the band’s “No Filter Tour” and has long been sold out.
NASA is moving equipment at the Kennedy Space Center to prepare for the storm. Hurricane strikes on the spaceport are relatively rare, but it did suffer damage from Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and Frances in 2004.
A 400-foot-tall launchpad tower designed to send off astronauts, in a return to human spaceflight, will be moved into the massive Vehicle Assembly Building if the storm stays on its current track, NASA said.
“Because that mobile launch tower has some equipment on it that is susceptible to being damaged by strong winds, it’s something that they want to make sure that they protect,” NASA spokesman Derrol Nail said in a public announcement.
To move the tower, NASA’s massive crawler transporter began moving Wednesday, at 1 mph, for the slow journey out to the tower at Launch Complex 39B. NASA has been planning to launch its new SLS rocket from the complex to carry the new Orion crew capsule.
The U.S. Air Force has gone into hurricane preparation mode at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Patrick Air Force Base, warning personnel they may need to be evacuated.
SpaceX and other companies that use Port Canaveral also began moving ships.
“If you need to get your boat inland prior to the approaching tropical system, do not wait until the last minute. Canaveral Lock will shut down once winds reach 35 mph sustained and during times of active lightning nearby,” the port tweeted.