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Florida Preps For Strengthening Hurricane Dorian: Storm Could Hit State As Damaging Cat 4

Dave Royse

People and businesses in Florida — including some still not completely recovered from a major storm last year — were warily eyeing Hurricane Dorian Thursday as it approached the U.S. east coast, accompanied by warnings it could become a destructive Category 4 storm.

First Major Hurricane Of 2019 

Predicting the storm’s exact path and landfall location on the U.S. mainland remained difficult Thursday, days ahead of Dorian’s expected Labor Day arrival. But officials from South Florida to Jacksonville near the state’s northern border with Georgia were warning residents to be mindful of its progress and prepare for sheltering or leaving its path.

Companies are preparing to respond to Dorian, which could be the first major hurricane to hit the U.S. mainland this year.

As of Thursday, travel wasn't yet heavily affected. American Airlines Group Inc (NASDAQ: AAL) issued travel alerts for several airports, including its Miami hub, warning travelers of likely delays, but said it hadn't canceled any flights. 

Fort Lauderdale International Airport and Miami International Airport were both open and operating fully, but both warned on Twitter of possible delays in the coming days. 

Several airlines were waiving change fees for customers who haven't changed their plans. 

AT&T, Home Depot Respond

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) said it has begun staging trucks to move mobile cell towers and cell-carrying drones into Florida after the storm to help with post-hurricane communication amid expected power outages and cell infrastructure damage.

Power companies, including one of the nation’s largest electric utilities, NextEra Energy Inc (NYSE: NEE) unit Florida Power & Light, were also watching the storm closely and prepping for a response, including staging hundreds of line workers from other parts of the country to be ready to flood into Florida after the storm.

Home Depot Inc (NYSE: HD) said on Twitter it has sent more than 160 extra truckloads of supplies to stores in communities in Dorian's path and was positioning some emergency and relief supplies in coordination with the Red Cross. 

Panhandle Braces For Another Hit

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 26 of the state’s 67 counties and mobilized the National Guard. If Dorian arrives as a Category 4 hurricane, it would be packing winds between 130 and 156 mph and potentially pushing large amounts of water ashore.

Dorian narrowly missed Puerto Rico but reportedly has caused damage in the Virgin Islands.

Residents of Florida’s Panhandle, on the western side of the state, are still recovering from last year’s Hurricane Michael, which hit as a Category 5 and devastated parts of the state’s Gulf Coast region between Tallahassee and Pensacola.

Dorian is the fourth named storm of this year’s season, but two of the others didn’t hit land as hurricanes. Hurricane Barry was a Category 1 storm when it hit the Louisiana coast last month.

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