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Keys officials declare a ‘state of local emergency’ but don’t order evacuations

Hurricane Dorian strengthens as Storm Surge warnings are in effect from FL to VA

Hurricane Dorian was located about 130 miles south of Charleston, SC, around 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. A Hurricane Warning extends from north of the Savannah River to the North Carolina/Virginia border.
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Hurricane Dorian was located about 130 miles south of Charleston, SC, around 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. A Hurricane Warning extends from north of the Savannah River to the North Carolina/Virginia border.

Florida Keys leaders on Friday afternoon declared a “state of local emergency” for the island chain but held off on any mandatory evacuation orders as Hurricane Dorian continues to aim for the mainland as a Category 4 storm.

“Dorian has become a major hurricane and safety is the highest priority,” said Kristen Livengood, the county spokeswoman, in a news release. “Chances of sustained tropical storm force winds have increased since yesterday throughout the Florida Keys.”

Damaging tropical storm force winds and squalls could be expected throughout the Florida Keys on Sunday through Tuesday, Livengood said.

Tourism officials, though, asked visitors to “calmly” leave the Keys if they have the means to do so.

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The Keys as of Friday are bracing for prolonged coastal flooding along with tropical storm conditions.

The National Weather Service in Key West said the heaviest rainfall is expected to douse the Upper Keys with up to six inches.

The worst flooding will likely strike the Upper Keys from Monday to Tuesday night, forecasters said.

Across the Keys, two to four inches of rain is predicted with saltwater flooding of low-lying streets expected to range from one to three feet above mean sea level.

“Sheltering will be discussed tomorrow morning for people who live in mobile homes, low-lying areas, liveaboard boaters, and the homeless,” she said.

There is a high possibility of prolonged coastal and street flooding on the bayside on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, peaking on Tuesday.

“Today is a planning day and tomorrow will be our action day,” Marty Senterfitt, director of the Monroe County Emergency Management said Friday. “We are prepared to move forward to protect lives and property.”

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In the Keys, all Veterans Administration Health System clinics, Monroe County schools, the Monroe County Courthouse and College of the Florida Keys will be closed Tuesday.

The Key West International Airport will remain open. There are no plans for it to close unless the forecast changes.

Lower Keys Medical Center is fully staffed and supplied and prepared to take upper-level care emergencies. Trauma Star is prepared to go a longer range should the Miami trauma centers close due to the hurricane.

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Monroe County Emergency Management is watching for flooding and storm surge models to be released to advise residents on specific details. The county does supply sandbags to residents.

“With our type of flooding issues, sandbags have proven insufficient in the past,” Livengood said.

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