HURRICANE DORIAN: STRONGEST ATLANTIC HURRICANE ON RECORD MOVES TOWARD PALM BEACH COUNTY

The eastern half of Palm Beach County has upward of a 90% chance of facing tropical storm-force winds. Those living in residential structures within Zone A and Zone B in Palm Beach County have been ordered to evacuate as of 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019.

Image courtesy of the National Hurricane Center

The eastern half of Palm Beach County has upward of a 90% chance of facing tropical storm-force winds. Those living in residential structures within Zone A and Zone B in Palm Beach County have been ordered to evacuate as of 1 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019.

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The Atlantic Ocean has slowly moved down its list of the Farmer’s Almanac’s 2019 hurricane names: from Andrea to Barry to Chantal. Now, though, as Gov. Ron DeSantis declares a state of emergency and gas stations without gas are a regular obstacle, the name Dorian has been added to every Floridian’s vernacular.

As Hurricane Dorian—a now-Category 5 storm of sustained 185 mph winds—heads northwest past the Bahamas, forecasts show a range of possible landfall sites. The hurricane is expected to be off the coast of Florida by late Monday or Tuesday; as of Sunday’s 2 p.m. advisory, most of Palm Beach County is under a tropical storm warning and storm surge watch. Heavy rain is expected on the coastline of the county, the strength of which could cause fatal flash floods.

The dictionary definition of a Category 5 storm provided by the NHC begs for pressing attention, describing destroyed homes, total roof failures, collapsed walls, “snapped or uprooted” trees, and possibly month-long power outages. According to the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, if Dorian makes landfall, Florida could experience winds of a similar magnitude to Hurricane Andrew, which hit in 1992. Andrew’s wind and surges destroyed over 25,000 homes, and direct damages totaled $26.5 billion. That being said, only some take the storm for what it is—genuinely dangerous.

“I think there are two types of people,” digital media senior Sophia Dawson said. “[There are] the people who close up their house and leave for Georgia or Alabama or some other state, and [there are] the people who think they’re better than the storm. The second type scares me a little.”

Although CBS News reported in an interview with the CEO of Florida Power & Light, Eric Silagy, that the West Palm “utility is ready for the storm,” many students felt that as of Thursday, they were not. The School District of Palm Beach County’s decision to keep district-operated schools and offices open on Friday, Aug. 30 was largely unpopular among the student population, as many believed that it restricted them from premeditated storm preparation.

“I know that we came into school, but I think it was kind of unfair to the families—especially the lower-income and the people who have bigger houses and smaller families,” communications freshman Manha Chowdhury said. “I think that we should have gotten [Friday] off so that people could help their families prepare.”

After facing backlash from students and parents alike on social media for their decision to keep schools and offices open on Friday, the SDPBC has announced that Palm Beach County schools and offices will be closed on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

PALM BEACH PREPARES

Across the county, individuals have been preparing for damage caused by the storm, putting up shutters and purchasing food, water, and gas. Many employees at convenience stores have witnessed the disorder caused by the storm. Digital media junior Tea Maxwell picked up shifts at Publix on Wednesday and Friday, when “there was no lull in customers” and many of those customers would get upset with the workers about product shortages.

“When it comes to working in those hectic conditions, people aren’t always understanding when we sell out of certain products or limit things like packs of water,” Maxwell said. “I wish those people could remember employees, as well as other residents of areas, are everyday human beings who have the same worries and preparations to do.”

Along with the many service sector workers putting time aside to serve their communities in preparation, the Dreyfoos Chapter of the National Honor Society hopes to help shelters across the county prepare for the storm. This past week, officers announced that they would give 10 NHS service hours to those who foster at least one of the hundreds of dogs from Big Dog Ranch Rescue during the hurricane. 

“We’re hoping that providing hours for this service will help to keep dogs safe during the hurricane, as well as help to teach members what they can do to impact the community in a meaningful way,” said NHS President and communications senior Sasha Monaco. 

Many students blasted the shelter’s plea for volunteers on their own social media accounts, and as of Saturday’s pickup time slot, 400 dogs have been placed in short-term foster homes. As those serving the community work and students and faculty gather supplies to secure their houses, many believe that it is important to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. 

“I think we should treat it as if it’s still headed right over us because even though the trajectory reports the eye heading farther north, there’s no predicting if it could swerve at the last minute or how severe the damage will be,” strings senior Finn Amygdalitsis said. “Better to be more cautious than less.”

Ultimately, students like communications freshman Jenna Lee hope that incidences like this will influence people to take notice of places of need not usually considered and work together to offer preventative measures for the future.

“I think tragedy always yields growth,” Lee said. “For example, in Puerto Rico, since they’re getting hit pretty bad with this and they’ve been hit really bad with storms in the past, people will buckle down and say, ‘Okay, we need to do something, we need to help these people and we need to help each other.’” 

For more information and live updates on Hurricane Dorian, click here