UPDATE: Gov. DeSantis has issued a second Hurricane Dorian-related emergency declaration, extending the state of emergency to cover all of Florida’s 67 counties. “All residents, especially those along the east coast, need to be prepared for possible impacts. As it increases strength, this storm has the potential to severely damage homes, businesses and buildings, which is why all Floridians should remain vigilant. Do not wait until it is too late to make a plan,” he said.
Gov. Ron DeSantis leapt into full disaster-prep mode Thursday, hopscotching along Florida’s east coast to confer with federal, state, and local emergency management officials and effecting a high public profile as Hurricane Dorian menaced the state’s east coast.
The governor’s daily schedule listed visits to the National Hurricane Center in Miami and local command centers in Brevard and Duval counties. The schedule also lists meetings with key aides, including Division of Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz and state meteorologist Amy Godsey. He spoke by telephone with Florida National Guard Adjutant General James Eiffert, the schedule says.
“The message, I think, right now, is that all Floridians really need to monitor Hurricane Dorian and make the necessary preparations,” DeSantis said during a news conference transmitted by live feed on his Facebook page. “This is a track that has a significant amount of uncertainty.”
The live feed cut out while the governor was in mid-sentence. Notwithstanding that glitch, the storm certainly will elevate DeSantis’ media profile within the state and likely nationally during the coming days.
Dorian is the first hurricane to threaten Florida since DeSantis took office in January, but he has been highly visible regarding recovery from Hurricane Michael, which trashed the Panhandle on Oct. 10. He spent his first full day in office surveilling Michael’s aftermath in the afflicted counties and has highlighted the state’s recovery efforts – and how his connections to President Trump purportedly drew federal dollars to Florida – ever since.
Locals, however, say the bulk of the recovery money still hasn’t reached the places that need it.
DeSantis is following the example of his predecessor, now-U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who invited TV crews and other reporters along as he, for example, monitored Hurricane Hermine from the state’s emergency response center in Tallahassee in 2016 and afterward cleared debris on that city’s south side.
A report in Florida Politics credits Scott’s visibility with contributing to his electoral ouster of long-term incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson last year. An analysis of Google search data by the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times highlights a conspicuous spike in Scott’s profile as he drew national coverage during Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
As for Dorian, DeSantis issued an emergency declaration Wednesday covering 26 counties stretching from the Florida Keys to the Georgia border. “We will likely be adding to that, in light of some of the additional forecasts,” he said Thursday.
The declaration allows the state to shift additional fuel to gas stations – Brevard County has already experienced shortages, the governor said. It also authorized deployment of the National Guard. “With a track like this, it’s uncertain where to deploy them, but the National Guard is going to be on deck for this.”
DeSantis spoke with President Trump Wednesday. The Federal Emergency Management Agency is dispatching personnel to Florida’s emergency management center, which DeSantis expects to be fully geared up by Friday.
DeSantis has also asked the federal government to dispatch generators and pumps to Florida in advance of landfall.