Gov. Ron DeSantis stressed Tuesday that it’s too early for Florida to relax about Hurricane Dorian, even as the storm has weakened and seemed likely to deal only a glancing blow to the state’s eastern coast.
“This is going to be riding Florida’s coast for the next day, day and a half. While we think this is a much better track than what we were looking at 72 hours ago, we just ask people to stay safe, remain vigilant,” the governor said during a news conference at the State Emergency Operations Center.
DeSantis waved away any concerns that U.S. Sen. Rick Scott – his predecessor as governor – and U.S. Sen Marco Rubio might be sending messages about Hurricane Dorian that conflict with those originating in Tallahassee.
“People can say what they want,” he said, adding that he’d conferred with Rubio that very day. He did not mention talking with Scott, who in recent days sidestepped a question about whether man-made climate change is producing more ferocious hurricanes.
DeSantis said he’s more interested in seeking quick federal reimbursement for state and local government expenditures for preparing and coping with Dorian.
“I talked with Marco probably an hour or two ago about that, and we’re going to be working with the administration, basically, to provide the reimbursements. I think that sends a good message that it really is the right thing to do to be prepared,” the governor said.
As of midday Tuesday, hurricane and storm surge warnings were in place for portions of the east coast, with reports of beach erosion, damage to structures, and tornadoes spawned by Dorian’s outer rain bands. Still, prospects seemed good the state would escape the catastrophic destruction seen in the Bahamas.
“There will be some effects in the state of Florida. There’ll be storm surge; there’ll be some flooding; you may see wind damage, depending on how close this gets to the state of Florida. But, at the end of the day, being safe is the most important [thing].” DeSantis said.
“We’re here until the duration, monitoring this thing,” he added.
DeSantis has monitored the storm since Friday at the operations center on Tallahassee’s south side – except for trips late last week to confer with emergency responders in cities potentially threatened by Dorian.
Tuesday, for example, opened at 8 a.m. with a call with chief of staff Shane Strum, followed by a series of meetings and conference calls with staff – including Director of Emergency Management Jared Moskowitz and state meteorologist Amy Godsey and members of the Florida Legislature. DeSantis also conferred with Federal Emergency Management Agency acting administrator Pete Gaynor and state and county authorities. Meetings were scheduled to last into the evening.
The governor also appeared before national audiences via television interviews with the Fox & Friends program and The Weather Channel. On Monday, he spoke by telephone with President Trump.
DeSantis has been deferring to local officials on whether and when to order evacuations – bowing, he said, to their familiarity with local conditions. Same thing for opening and closing storm evacuation shelters.
“They were all very cognizant of what those orders mean for people. They did not do it willy-nilly. We certainly were not going to do it willy-nilly and create a lot of chaos and panic. I think it was done very deliberately, but I think it was done in a way to try to keep people safe,” he said.
This was DeSantis’ advice to the public: “Heed the orders. Just listen, because there’s different effects that can happen. There are some of these communities that have experienced flooding with less than what we’re facing now. You have different erosion issues that can make some of the structures unsafe with certain impacts. I would just listen to what those local folks are telling you.”
DeSantis noted ties between Florida and the Bahamas – including immigrants from the islands who live in the state. “You’re going see a lot of people in Florida who want to help that effort – probably raise a lot of money privately,” he said.
State government’s immediate focus will be on recovery within the state, DeSantis said, but he would send assistance to the Bahamas if requested. He also expected out-of-state power crews and emergency responders to redeploy to Georgia and the Carolinas once the danger in Florida has passed.