As Hurricane Dorian barrels toward Florida and the eastern United States, Ohioans are already trying to help people who may be impacted by the storm.
Workers from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to the Greater Cincinnati-Dayton Red Cross were getting involved long before the storm approached.
“It’s a little bit scary going into what everybody else is leaving,” said Mark Howell, disaster support specialist for the Red Cross. “But it’s a great opportunity for me personally, to give back to the community.”
Meteorologists are not sure if the core of the powerful system will ever strike the U.S. It is predicted to stay offshore as it spins north, paralleling the coasts of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.
But if scientists are off by even a few dozen miles, the storm could plow onshore somewhere along that route. So more than a million people have been ordered to leave seaside communities, and more evacuations were issued Monday — all the way to North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Howell, along with Alan Schussheim, a Red Cross disaster responder, left Dayton for Mobile, Alabama on Monday. When they arrive there in the emergency response vehicle, they’ll help distribute food and water to people evacuated for the hurricane.
Schussheim and Howell are two of 32 from the region and more than 1,600 Red Cross volunteers from across the country, according to the nonprofit. The duo will help with hurricane relief for at least two weeks but possibly longer.
“We’ve had a lot of help from other people recently because of some of the disasters that occurred here in Dayton,” Howell said. “So, this is an opportunity for Dayton to give back to those communities in return.”
Along with the Red Cross, Ohio Task Force 1 is heading south to help people in the hurricane’s path. A team of around 85 members will be staged at the Miami International Airport, according to the task force.
The group is known to respond to natural disasters to assist with search and rescue and other missions. Most recently, the task force assisted in search efforts in Vandalia and Harrison Twp. following the Memorial Day tornadoes.
“This team make-up consists of members prepared to conduct search’s, including K-9 search, provide rescue and medical duties, along with all the logistics needs for the team,” the task force said.
Wright-Patt on Friday began housing some of the Air National Guard’s F-15C Eagles from Jacksonville, Florida.
Wright-Patt often acts as the temporary home for aircraft from other military installations if dangerous weather develops. Last October, Wright-Patt took in some F-35, F-15 and F-16 aircraft from Elgin Air Force Base and F-22 planes from Tydnall Air Force Base as Hurricane Michael approached the Flordia Panhandle.
The Air National Guard’s planes from Jacksonville will likely be safe in Ohio, as the region is expected to have nice weather all week is expected to have nice weather all week, said Storm Center 7 chief meteorologist McCall Vrydaghs.
“We’re going to be too far removed based upon the track of this storm,” Vrydaghs said. “So we actually are on the side of the storm where we’re dealing with high pressure, which is going to give us lots of sunshine and really a fantastic week.”
The National Hurricane Center forecasts Dorian will be 40 to 50 miles off the Florida coast today and Wednesday, with hurricane-force wind speeds extending about 35 miles to the west.
When they make a forecast, meteorologists have a general idea where the monstrous storm is going but they then have to choose a point on the map instead of a general place, making it seem more specific than it really is. Much of the Florida coast is inside that cone.
“This thing is perilously close to the state. I think we should all hope and pray for the best, but we have to prepare that this could have major impacts on the state of Florida,” said Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. “If you look at the National Hurricane Center’s current track, I think it ends up within 30 miles of the coast of Florida. Well guess what? You do just a touch of a bump one way or another, and you have a dramatic difference all of a sudden.”
Dorian is a powerful but small hurricane with hurricane-force winds only extending 29 miles to the west, but they are expecting to grow a bit. That makes forecasting the storm’s path along the coast — either just off the coast, skirting it or moving inland with a direct hit — delicate and difficult. Just a few miles west or east makes the difference between devastation and bad but not horrible damage, meteorologists said.
The fearsome Category 4 storm slowed almost to a standstill Monday as it shredded roofs, hurled cars and forced even rescue crews to take shelter in the Bahamas until the onslaught passed.
Dorian unleashed massive flooding across the Bahamas, pummeling the islands with so much wind and water that authorities urged people to find flotation devices and grab hammers to break out of their attics if necessary.
Officials said they received a “tremendous” number of calls from people in flooded homes. A radio station received more than 2,000 distress messages, including reports of a 5-month-old baby stranded on a roof and a grandmother with six grandchildren who cut a hole in a roof to escape rising floodwaters. Other reports involved a group of eight children and five adults stranded on a highway and two storm shelters that flooded.
It’s important for residents or people traveling in the impacted areas to be cautious even if the storm doesn’t take direct hit at Florida or other states along the coast, Vrydaghs said. Though high winds may be less noticeable in some impacted areas, Vrydaghs said that doesn’t mean water won’t rise to dangerous levels as the storm rolls by.
Forecasters have warned that Dorian could generate a storm surge as high as 23 feet.
“Water in storm surge is what kills more people than winds,” Vrydaghs said. “People don’t understand that there may be water rising in your area along the coastal regions long before you even see the impact…so you could be in a situation where it’s life threatening storm surge and flooding, even if you never see those hundred plus mile an hour winds.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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