Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he’ll issue no blanket calls for Floridians to leave the state, apparently hoping to avoid some of the chaos that characterized the run-up to Hurricane Irma in 2017.
DeSantis said at a briefing Friday morning that there will be evacuation orders, but he would leave those calls to local officials. He said he’s not going to “willy nilly” tell counties to “tell everybody to leave because that may create some problems as well.
He added that if people evacuate too soon, they could end up heading into the storm if its path changes. He also said people should use shelters within their communities
“It doesn’t have to be that everyone in the East Coast of Florida gets on I-95 and just keeps driving,” DeSantis said later Friday.
In 2017, then-Gov. Rick Scott repeatedly urged Floridians across the state to “get out now” for several days as Irma approached.
A key difference then was Irma was a much wider storm likely to affect most of the state whichever path it took. So far, Dorian is a much narrower storm. The broad call to evacuate in 2017 was followed by an epic traffic jam on Florida’s interstates, coupled with a shortage of gas and lack of lodging space. It was considered one of the largest evacuations in U.S. history, ultimately affecting more than 5 million people.
Former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Craig Fugate, who held a similar position in Florida, said it’s best to make decisions on where to start evacuations when there’s some certainty about where a storm will come ashore. The forecast for Hurricane Dorian has been far from precise.
“What exactly would you be evacuating from? There’s tremendous uncertainty where this is going to come ashore. It’s not there yet,” Fugate said Friday.
“You can’t be making these decisions in isolation. It’s less about somebody just arbitrarily ordering an evacuation. How far out is the storm, and when will the tropical storm force winds get there?” he added.