Florida is ready, but where is the hurricane?
By Leila MACOR
Port Saint Lucie, United States (AFP) Sept 3, 2019
Houses and businesses are boarded up, bridges to barrier islands are blocked and many residents of Florida’s beachside communities are long gone.
But the wait is starting to get to those who have stayed behind, waiting for Hurricane Dorian, the slow-moving behemoth that walloped the Bahamas and now lingers off shore.
“The uncertainty is a little nerve wracking,” says Drew Gabrielson, clutching his trembling Chihuahua Rodney as he looks across a beach at the roughening surf.
The 47-year-old has been through hurricanes before, but this one, he says, is so slow.
“I’m ready for it to be over,” he said.
On Tuesday, Dorian began moving at five miles per hour (eight kilometers per hour), a positively jaunty pace after being stuck at a near standstill for the better part of two days as it battered the helpless Bahamas.
That has given Florida precious time to assemble an army of utility trucks, bulldozers and road-clearing equipment.
But the sense of impatience is growing as the wait stretches out.
One tongue-in-cheek hurricane graphic on social media shows Dorian’s arrival times on the US east coast as anywhere between Halloween and Christmas.
Still, there are chilling reminders that the big storm is still out there.
The hurricane’s outer bands lash the shore from time to time, with 50 miles per hour gusts, intermittent rains and high seas.
– ‘Already working overtime!’ –
On Tuesday morning, Dorian had weakened to a Category 2 storm after leaving at least five dead in the Bahamas, where it landed Sunday as a maximum strength Category 5.
It was expected to continue picking up speed and turn north Wednesday night, which would mark a breakthrough after days in place.
“I think I can walk faster than this storm,” said Erick Gill, communications director for Florida’s St Lucie county.
“Looks like we are out of harm’s way, but we still want to remain vigilant. Until it passes north of us, there’s still a chance that we could be impacted,” he said.
The biggest threat is from storm surges kicked up by Dorian, as well as potential hurricane-force winds.
Early Tuesday, dozens of electric power company workers arrived by bus from Orlando in St Lucie county.
The area is peppered with vulnerable mobile home parks and flood-prone areas, but the extra workers are on hand to repair power lines and clear downed trees once the storm moves through.
“Let the storm take its time, I’m already working overtime!” said one worker, who wouldn’t give his name.
Florida has 118 shelters open across the state, where 10,300 people have taken refuge from the storm.
Mona Buchanan, the principal of a high school being used as a shelter in Fort Pierce, Florida said: “People are tense because we don’t know where the storm is going to go.”