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Florida braces for major Hurricane Dorian amid statewide emergency

By Nicholas Sakelaris & Paul Brinkmann
1/7
Florida braces for major Hurricane Dorian amid statewide emergency
A resident of Boynton Beach, Fla., fills four gas cans Thursday in preparation for the arrival of Hurricane Dorian.  Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo

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.

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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."

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Florida has 1 million gallons of drinking water on hand, DeSantis said.

Florida Power & Light Co. 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."

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On Wednesday, eight flights to Puerto Rico were canceled at Orlando International Airport. Generators, tarps, batteries and battery-powered weather radios have disappeared from store shelves and Floridians are literally lining up to buy gasoline.

In eastern 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 CocoCay, its private island in the Bahamas. All U.S. airlines are monitoring the storm's progress to see how it affects flight schedules.

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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, $650 million launchpad tower designed to send off astronauts, in a return to human spaceflight, is to be moved 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.

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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.

"We haven't suffered a direct hit from a hurricane since a lot of this center was built in the 1960s," Nail said. "The Vehicle Assembly Building is basically a huge steel cage, encased in insulated aluminum. We've had winds clocked up to 110 mph and it's held up quite well in the past."

The U.S. Air Force has gone into hurricane preparation mode at nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and at Patrick Air Force Base in southern Brevard County, warning personnel they may need to be evacuated.

SpaceX and other companies that use Port Canaveral also began moving ships.

Disney Cruise Line, which sails from Port Canaveral, said it "determined that it is safe for Disney Dream to set sail on Friday as originally scheduled."

"Once the ship departs Port Canaveral, it will keep a safe distance from the storm. Depending on its path, there is a possibility that we may need to modify the itinerary, including not being able to return to Port Canaveral on Monday," Disney said on its cruise line website.

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The company also said that "based on the current predicted storm timing and path, we do not anticipate any changes to the Disney Fantasy sailing on Saturday."

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