With Hurricane Dorian expected to make landfall Monday, state and local officials are warning residents to prepare ahead.
Florida and Osceola County officials declared a state of emergency Wednesday as the storm gained intensity in the Caribbean. It battered the U.S. Virgin Islands and headed away from Puerto Rico, which dodged the worst of Dorian.
But the storm gained strength over the Atlantic Ocean and is expected to be a Category 4 hurricane by the time it hits the East Coast.
While county officials said it was still too early to determine specific impacts, based on the current forecast, the area can expect:
• Significant impacts from Dorian are most likely to occur from late this weekend through Tuesday.
• Destructive winds may extend far inland along and near the track of the hurricane.
• Outer rain bands with gusty winds and heavy rain in squalls will occur ahead of the main impacts.
The Florida Department of Health will open the county’s only special needs shelter Saturday at the Osceola Council on Aging in Kissimmee. People must register with the county’s Special Needs Program to reserve space.
Residents can call the county’s Citizens Information Center 407-742-0000 to get the latest updates on evacuations and how to stay safe before, during and after the storm.
The county’s Emergency Operations Center, Kissimmee Utility Authority and Orlando Utilities also distribute up-to-the-minute information on Twitter. (You don’t have to have a Twitter account to access the updates.)
Osceola County on Thursday urged residents to contact their utility providers ahead of the storm.
“Having that contact information in advance will help you in the need of power restoration after the storm passes as this is not a government function,” a county press release said.
The county and the cities of Kissimmee and St. Cloud were distributing sandbags to residents Friday.
“We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best,” County Commission Chairwoman Cheryl Grieb said at a Thursday press conference.
Emergency management officials said that extended rains from the hurricane could cause widespread flooding in Osceola County.
As officials continue to track the path of Tropical Storm Dorian in the Caribbean, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis reminds residents to prepare now.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “We are at the peak of the 2019 Hurricane Season and Floridians should pay attention to the path of Tropical Storm Dorian over the next few days. Now is the time to follow easy insurance preparation steps to make sure you can file claims quickly if disaster strikes.”
1. Gather important insurance and financial documents. Take copies of your legal, financial and medical documents with you, including bank statements, insurance policies, mortgage information, wills, birth certificates, passports and medical prescriptions. Keep these copies in a plastic bag for safe keeping.
2. Conduct a home inventory. Pull together an itemized list of your belongings, including costs, purchase dates and serial numbers. Attach receipts, especially for “big ticket” items. Snap photos of valuables in your home. Dated photographs or taking a video of your possessions on your phone can help during the claims process after a storm. Your insurance company may require proof of the cost of any item for which you make a claim.
3. Know your insurance contacts. Write down the names of your agent and agency, your insurance company, your policy number and telephone numbers to report claims. Remember that the name of your insurance company might differ from that of your agent, agency or underwriter. Save CFO Patronis’ Insurance Helpline number in your phone (1-877-MY-FL-CFO).
Visit CFO Patronis’ PrepareFL.com website for helpful resources to prepare and recover from a storm.
Labor Day travelers should closely monitor Tropical Storm Dorian and be prepared to adjust plans based on advice from local authorities, AAA officials said. Despite where the storm makes landfall, it’s possible that its effects could be felt throughout much of the state. The potential of strong winds, heavy downpours and flooding would create dangerous conditions on Florida roadways.
“Dorian has the potential to cause flight cancellations, altered cruise itineraries, and extremely hazardous conditions on the road,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA - The Auto Club Group. “AAA urges travelers to monitor weather reports closely and follow the advice of authorities. Travelers concerned about their flight or cruise should check online or contact their travel provider for a status update. Those planning a road trip should plan ahead and make arrangements to be off the road if and when severe weather strikes.”
Visit AAA.com/Hurricane for tips on preparing your home for the storm - including pre and post-storm checklists.
AAA road safety tips: prepare your vehicle now.
Drivers should visit their trusted mechanic to ensure their vehicle is ready for inclement weather.
• Windshield wipers — Replace windshield wiper inserts that leave streaks or don’t clear the glass in a single swipe.
• Headlights and tail lights — Make sure all headlights, tail lights, brake lights and turn signals are properly functioning so other drivers will see you during downpours. Turn on your headlights whenever you drive.
• Tire tread — Proper tire tread depth and inflation are imperative to maintaining good traction on wet roadways.
Check tread depth with a quarter inserted upside down into the tire groove. If you can see above Washington’s head, start shopping for new tires.
• Tire pressure — Check each tire’s pressure when the tires are cold. Since not all newer vehicles come with spare tires, drivers should ensure they have one that is properly inflated.
• Brakes — Sudden stops on a wet road are already a challenge with properly functioning brakes. If your car vibrates, pulls to the side, or makes noise when you apply the brakes, it might be time for a replacement.
• Emergency kit — Emergency kits should include a mobile phone and car charger, flashlight with extra batteries, first-aid kit, drinking water, extra snacks/food for your travelers and pets, battery booster cables, and emergency flares or reflectors.
Driving in the rain
• Check traffic and weather conditions before heading out.
• Expect longer drive times. Vehicles will likely be moving slower than normal, which may cause traffic congestion. Allow extra time to get to your destination so you do not take any unnecessary risks.
• Turn headlights on. Turn on your headlights to help you see and be seen.
• Do not drive with hazard lights on. This signifies a disabled vehicle, and could confuse approaching motorists; potentially causing a crash.
• Do not use high beams. The extra light not only blinds oncoming motorists, it also reflects off the rain, causing more of a distraction for you.
• Slow down to avoid hydroplaning. At speeds as low as 35 mph, new tires can still lose contact with the road. AAA recommends drivers slow down, avoid hard braking or turning sharply and drive in the tracks of the vehicle ahead of you.
• Avoid cruise control. When used in wet conditions, the risk of hydroplaning increases. When engaged, cruise control does not allow drivers to back off the accelerator to mitigate a loss of traction.
• Pull over. If you cannot see the edges of the road or other vehicles at a safe distance while driving, pull off the road as far as you can and wait for the rain to ease up. Make sure to turn on emergency flashers to alert other drivers.
• Traffic signal blackouts are dangerous. If traffic signal lights are not working due to power failure, you must stop at the intersection and then proceed when you know other turning and approaching vehicles, bicycles, or pedestrians have stopped. A blacked-out traffic signal works the same as a four-way stop intersection. However, not everyone knows or follows that rule; and some may not realize they are approaching a controlled intersection; so proceed with extreme caution.
• Comply with the move over law. Observe the Move Over Law when law enforcement or emergency vehicles are on the side of the road. Change lanes or slow down to give sufficient clearance. This is the law in all 50 states.
• Drive distraction free. Do not text or engage in distracting activities while driving, including interacting with a cell phone, talking with passengers or looking at other objects in the vehicle.
After the hurricane passes, you may lose access to basic services, such as power and water; so be sure to stock up on essentials now and build a disaster kit to last you and your family for a minimum of 7 days.
• Water – Pack a minimum of 1 gallon per person per day for seven days.
• Food – Non-perishable packaged or canned food and juices you can consume without cooking, in case of power outage.
• Flashlights, batteries and chargers – Be sure to have flashlights, extra batteries, battery-powered radio, and cell phone chargers.
• Withdraw cash – Remember, banks will be closed during the storm. If there is a loss of electricity, ATMs and credit card machines will be inoperable.
Keep your gas tank full. During extreme weather conditions, local gas stations may experience limited supplies, possible outages, and even closures. Make sure you are fueled up and prepared to respond to an emergency evacuation order.
Have some packaged snacks, such as granola, peanut butter and bread, on hand to feed the family as you wait out the storm. Family games also help pass the time and occupy small children.