TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- It was a close call.
Florida’s emergency response teams are counting their blessings as Dorian, once a Category 5 hurricane, leaves behind a minimal mark on the state.
As the storm winded its way up the east coast, Wednesday, Florida’s Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee was winding down. Staff levels dropped 25 percent by the end of the day. Officials expected to cease Dorian response at the EOC in the near future, once impacts to the northeastern part of Florida could be assessed.
“Obviously, everyone is breathing a sigh of relief,” Emergency Management Director Jared Moskowitz said.
Moskowitz told reporters initial damage reports suggested minor impacts across the state. Limited power outages, some flooding and beach erosion.
“With Hurricane Dorian moving past Florida, our state agencies and personnel are focusing on recovery and restoration efforts along the East Coast,” Governor Ron DeSantis said in a news release. “Florida is blessed to have some of the best emergency management officials and first responders in the nation and I could not be prouder to lead such a talented and selfless team of public servants.”
Emergency management officials believed recovery would be quick. But, they urged Floridians to be prepared for the next storm. Hurricane season has only reached its peak.
The state spent days preparing for Dorian. People stocked up on supplies. Mandatory evacuations were placed in coastal counties. Authorities set up more than 100 shelters and had thousands of guardsmen ready for deployment.
“This was the appropriate level of response,” Moskowitz said. “This was the strongest storm ever to pull up to our doorstep on this side of the state. There’s not going to be any Monday-morning quarterbacking of did we over prepare. The opposite of that is we would have 'underprepared' for a Category 5 storm."
For many, eyes now turn to help the storm-ravaged Bahamas. Private efforts have already been established across the state. Even major companies like Disney offering to donate funds to the island nation.
Florida’s Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried suggested the aid Florida amassed— food and water— could be shipped to the Bahamas, which looked to need it more.
“As we know, Florida first, Americans first,” she said. “But, we also have a moral obligation on the global level to make sure we’re helping our friends.”