Florida governor declares state of emergency over Hurricane Dorian

Dorian forecast to become major hurricane before hitting Florida's East Coast

By Colette DuChanois - Web producer, Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

File photo of Gov. Ron DeSantis

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday declared a state of emergency for 26 counties in anticipation of a powerful hit from Hurricane Dorian during the Labor Day weekend.

DeSantis' executive order, which is expected to enable better coordination for state and local governments with federal agencies, was accompanied by an announcement that the state Emergency Operations Center would become fully activated Thursday morning.

"It's important for Floridians on the East Coast to monitor this storm closely," DeSantis said in a statement. "Every Florida resident should have seven days of supplies, including food, water and medicine, and should have a plan in case of disaster."

DeSantis added that the state was ready to support all coastal counties as they prepare for the storm.

The order covers numerous functions of state government, while also clearing the way for agreements with other states to coordinate resources. It also ordered Adj. Gen. James Eifert to activate the Florida National Guard "as needed" to deal with the emergency.

The order covers all coastal counties on the East Coast -- including Nassau, Duval, St. Johns and Flagler -- and a number of inland counties, including Baker, Bradford, Clay, Putnam and Union. 

READ: Executive Order 19-189 issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis

  Tracking Dorian

The storm, which was upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane Wednesday afternoon, is projected to make landfall late Sunday or Monday morning on the East Coast as a potential major hurricane, with winds topping 110 mph.

On Thursday morning, the State Emergency Operations Center will activate to a Level 2, enhancing the coordination between federal, state and local emergency management agencies.

"Because of the uncertainty in the track of this storm, every resident along the East Coast needs to be ready," said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz. "As updates come out, it's important that Floridians continue to pay attention to media and local officials as the track of this storm has been changing and can continue to change rapidly. By having an executive order in place and by activating the State Emergency Operations Center to a Level 2, we are fully prepared to support any community that might be impacted."

Tropical-storm force winds are expected to reach Florida on Saturday, with the winds extending as far as Pensacola late Sunday.

"All indications are that by this Labor Day weekend, a powerful hurricane will be near or over the Florida peninsula," the National Hurricane Center posted Wednesday.

Earlier in the week, Dorian had been predicted to remain a tropical storm when it reached Florida.

Accompanying DeSantis' order Wednesday, Attorney General Ashley Moody activated Florida's price-gouging hotline -- (866) 9NO-SCAM, or via app NO SCAM -- for counties included in the state of emergency.

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said Wednesday his city's Emergency Operations Center was starting to ramp up and would begin full-time operations Thursday morning.

"We've done this before. We've been through this together. This is no time to panic," Curry said during a news conference. "We don't know what will develop in the days ahead, but it's time to know your evacuation zone."

Dorian could be the fifth hurricane to impact the state in four years.

In 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused damage as it skirted the East Coast, and Hurricane Hermine knocked out electricity in the Tallahassee area. Hurricane Irma barreled through much of the state in 2017, and Hurricane Michael devastated parts of the Panhandle last year.

Copyright WJXT and News Service of Florida. All rights reserved.