Hurricane

Dorian claimed three lives in Florida. Two were men who fell while prepping for storm.

Hurricane Dorian’s colossal winds may have skirted Florida’s coast, but the human cost became clearer Thursday as the state confirmed three storm-related deaths and suggested that county medical examiners may have more to report.

The state confirmed that David Bradley, a 68-year-old Indialantic man, died Sunday while putting plywood on the windows of a beachside condominium. The death was first reported by Florida Today.

Police said Bradley was standing on a ladder in the screened-in balcony facing the sea when he fell through the screen three stories to his death.

A second confirmed death was that of 55-year-old Joseph Waldon of Ocoee, who fell to his death while trimming tree limbs on Monday ahead of the storm.

Waldon had climbed about 15 feet into the tree with a chain saw and, as he was cutting branches, a limb hit him and he fell, Ocoee Battalion Fire Chief Edwin Youman told WKMG in Orlando.

Waldon was not using a ladder. His family said he was attempting to trim the limbs to prevent it from falling onto the house in strong winds.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday that an elderly man who had been taken to an emergency shelter died while there, but he could offer no additional details. The state announces hurricane-related deaths after the fatalities have been confirmed by local medical examiners.

The storm “was a close call,’’ DeSantis said at his final media briefing on the monster hurricane that was still moving through the Carolinas.

He estimated the damage to Florida would be “tens of millions of dollars,’‘ mostly from flooding and beach erosion but reminded Floridians it could have been worse.

“There will be damage but the damage will be less than what was experienced during Hurricane Matthew,’’ he said.

DeSantis repeated his comment that the decision to urge Floridians to prepare aggressively but move cautiously when issuing evacuation orders was a wise one.

“I want to thank all Floridians for hanging in there during what was a frustrating process,’’ DeSantis said. “This was a storm where we had a cone of uncertainty last week, covering almost the entire state of Florida, and we weren’t sure what direction it would take. We were all kind of on the edge of our seats.”

He urged Floridians to pray for those in the Carolinas, who are still facing the wrath of Dorian, and offer aid to those in the Bahamas where the blistering winds destroyed thousands of homes and many people remain missing.

He would not comment on whether he supports the request by U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to allow Bahamians who lost their homes to temporarily live in Florida through a visa waiver. He kept his focus on Floridians “who have relationships with the Bahamas, whether it be for vacation ... or Floridian property owners.”

“So keep them in your thoughts, and prayers,’’ he said.

DeSantis said the state has sought an amended disaster declaration to allow counties such as Miami-Dade and Broward, which opened shelters for residents in anticipation of the storm, to be reimbursed by the federal government even though Dorian did not make landfall there.

“South Florida heeded the call,’‘ said Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, a Miami native. “We initially were looking at impact, and as the governor mentioned, South Florida took this very seriously and so they indeed incurred some costs in preparing. We eventually were taken out of the cone, but I think that speaks to the volume and level of preparedness that we need to maintain.”

Local disaster aid

DeSantis said he has asked President Donald Trump to allow for federal reimbursement of those costs because the counties did what federal emergency assistance officials asked them to do and prepared.

“The idea they would be left holding the entire bag, that sends the message to maybe skimp on that next time,’‘ he said. “What that will end up leading to is, when a storm does hit, the damage will be worse from the federal perspective because they’ll have to pay more money.”

As of Wednesday night, 41 counties reported spending $55 million in storm-related expenses, including $10 million by Miami-Dade and $14 million by Martin County, according to the state Division of Emergency Management.

DeSantis said the president has said “we’re going to help you out with whatever you need — not getting into the details.”

DeSantis thanked the staff of the EOC and said state officials and resources would remain available to assist the Carolinas as needed.

“Keep them in your thoughts and prayers,’‘ he said. “What we want to do is hope there’s nothing more this hurricane season.”

He concluded: “This is kind of a wrap.”

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reporter Lawrence Mower contributed to this report.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at meklas@miamiherald.com and @MaryEllenKlas

Mary Ellen Klas is the capital bureau chief for the Miami Herald, where she covers government and politics and focuses on investigative and accountability reporting. In 2018-19, Mary Ellen was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and was named the 2019 Murrey Marder Nieman Fellow in Watchdog Journalism. In 2018, she won the Sunshine Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. The Herald’s statehouse bureau is a joint operation with the Tampa Bay Times’ statehouse staff. Please support her work with a digital subscription. You can reach her at meklas@miamiherald.com and on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas.
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