Buddy Dyer predicts Dorian’s Orlando impact to be like Charley’s
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orlando officials give a briefing on Hurricane Dorian preparations.

Buddy Dyer
Dyer, Jerry Demings declare emergencies for Orlando, Orange County

As Hurricane Dorian intensifies, grows, slows, and drifts toward a more southern landfall, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said his expectations are for something similar to the worst hurricane Orlando has seen this century.

Dyer warned Orlando residents to remember Hurricane Charley’s blow. That Aug. 13, 2004, storm came ashore as a Category 3 hurricane in Punta Gorda causing massive destruction in southwest Florida. It still packed a memorable punch when it reached Orlando 130 miles inland a few hours later.

“I would liken it closer to Charley than anything,” Dyer said of Dorian’s potential impact on Central Florida. “Charley came through very quickly. But we had 10,000 trees that came down during the course of Charley.

“We do anticipate that if it comes as predicted and it’s a level one hurricane when it comes through the city of Orlando that we will have thousands of down. So that’s going to take down power lines so the power is going to be out,” Dyer said.

Dyer made his comments as he and other city, Orlando Utilities Commission, and LYNX officials laid out their plans Friday at Orlando’s Emergency Operations Center, and as Orange County officials did the same at the Orange County Administration Building.

Both Dyer and Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings declared emergencies, for the city and county. That puts both in disaster management mode.

City and county offices will be closed Monday and Tuesday and all routine services, including trash pickup, are suspended for those days. Further closures are to be determined, Demings said.

Orange County School Board Chair Teresa Jacobs announced Orange County schools will be closed Tuesday. [They’re already closed Monday for Labor Day.] Further closures will be considered later as conditions are evaluated, she said.

LYNX bus service will continue until further notice. When sustained wind conditions reach 35 mph, the system will shut down. The agency’s disabilities transportation service, Access LYNX, will continue through Sunday. On Monday it will be available only for life-sustaining transportation.

Orange County and Orange County Public Schools are working together and with organizations such as the American Red Cross to open 12 shelters on Sunday, at locations to be announced later. They could accommodate more than 5,000 people. If more is needed, more will be opened, Demings said.

Unlike Charley, Dorian is being projected to move very slowly through Florida. It should hit the coast harder than Charley, as a Category 4 storm, but still be a hurricane by the time it reaches Orlando. And that’s despite taking 24 hours or longer to travel roughly the same distance inland to reach Central Florida as Charley did.

That means a lot of rain, at the very least, said Orange County Public Safety Director Danny Banks. Flooding has been a major Orange County issue in past storms, even below tropical storms. But county officials said they learned a lot from Hurricane Irma which caused major flooding problems in 2017. Among other precautionary moves, all lakes are being lowered in advance.

“Rain may be our worst problem in Orange County. Not the wind. Rain. In a slow storm that sits over us for two or three days brings the possibility of a lot of rain,” Banks said. “So prepare for flooding.”

“This event is a little bit different from Charley. Charley was a very fast-moving storm coming through the county. This is going to be protracted if it follows the same track,” said Orange County Acting Emergency Management Director Keith Kotch.

The key advisories — besides urging all residents to prepare — was the reminder that as winds pick up many services will shut down or be limited, and that includes fire, rescue and law enforcement.

Orlando Interim Fire Chief  Richard Wales said his department will respond normally until sustained winds reach 45 mph, and then will make only emergency calls. Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon said his officers will go into emergency-only service when winds reach 40 mph.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina and Orange County Fire  Chief Jim Fitzgerald said their departments are not basing service runs on any particular wind speeds, but when they conclude conditions are unsafe.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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