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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2019 2 weeks ago

Tropical storm-force winds to move into southern Volusia starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday

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Also: Information on curfews, bridge closures, storm surge and hurricane-related crimes.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Southern Volusia County will start feeling tropical storm-force winds from Hurricane Dorian at about 6 p.m. tonight, and they are expected to be 44-55 mph and last 17-24 hours, Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Judge said in a county news conference at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3.

The storm is a strong Category 2, with winds of 110 mph (Category 3 would start at 111 mph), Judge said. 

It is expected to bring 2-4 inches of rain and 4-6 feet of storm surge.

The St. Johns River already is in a minor flood state in Astor, and is expected to be in a moderate flood state later this week.

The county currently has about 1,800 people in its emergency shelters, Judge said. Shelter information can be found on the county's public information network page, at http://volusia.org/pin.

County Manager George Recktenwald warned residents not to get complacent.

"I know everyone’s getting antsy; we’ve been watching, waiting, for this storm for several days and we’re all eager to have some answers," he said. "... Right now, we’re fairly confident that we won’t experience a direct hit, but we’re certainly not out of the woods. If that storm moves just a few miles to the west, it could make a big difference."

For perspective, Recktenwald added, Hurricane Irma's maximum sustained countywide average winds were 62 mph.

"Thats very similar to what we may see here, especially when you consider what gusts we may be getting across the county," he said. 

He noted that the storm is expanding. 

Anyone who has damage after the storm is asked to call the county's official citizen information hotline at 866-345-0345, Judge said, as the county will be coordinating volunteer efforts and supplies such as tarps.

Curfews, crime and bridges

A curfew will be in effect from 6 p.m. today, Tuesday, until 6 a.m. tomorrow for areas east of the Halifax River, Sheriff Mike Chitwood said.

"The main purpose of the curfew is to keep folks off the street that don’t have anything to do with the emergency," Chitwood said. "Police, fire, EMS, people making deliveries, they're all exempt from the curfew. What we don't want is people venturing out, getting up on the beach, becoming a victim, entangling yourself with downed wires, driving in the flooded waters. The best thing to do is stay on lockdown, let us tell you when the all-clear is good, and that way you're safe when you go out there. Don't become part of the problem and hinder what we're trying to do."

A curfew may also be enacted Wednesday evening, depending on conditions, Chitwood said.

Bridges will close once winds exceed 39 mph, as they are expected to do in the early morning hours Wednesday, Chitwood said. They will remain closed at least until winds decrease to under 39 mph. Individual municipalities will determine bridge opening procedures.

Chitwood also warned residents to beware of scammers: In DeBary yesterday, he said, an 83-year-old woman was scammed out of more than $20,000 by people posing as tree trimmers. In another case, in DeLand, a visually impaired individual was scammed by people who posed as city workers, asking for access to the house to inspect the tap water.

"I can't say this enough to anybody that hears my voice: If somebody comes to you house and claims to be a city worker, a county worker, a roofer, an electrician: Don't let them in — call 911 and get the police there are quickly as possible," Chitwood said.

As the storm worsens and power likely goes out, Chitwood said, "Please keep an eye on our most vulnerable citizens, and if you see something suspicious when you look out the window, don't hesitate to call 911."

Generator and chainsaw safety

As residents turn to generators to keep the lights on after the storm, they should make sure they're operating the devices safely, Volusia County Deputy Chief Noble Taylor said.

Generators should be placed 25-50 feet away from homes, and pointed so that the wind is blowing fumes away from the house. 

When they run out of fuel and need to be refueled, they must be allowed to cool completely first — even if that means a 45-minute wait.

And they should never be operated in an enclosed space, where their carbon monoxide emissions could quickly become deadly.

"It only takes a minute or two for that to build up in the house," Taylor said. 

Residents should also make sure that all sleeping quarters have a smoke detector, as state law requires, he said.

After the storm, Taylor said, residents shouldn't rush to use chainsaws to clear yard debris.

Often, downed power lines can become mixed into piles of downed trees and become difficult to see.

"Many times in my career, I’ve seen it where a power line was down in a group of trees limbs or debris, someone goes to clean that up or run a chainsaw with that, they step on it, they touch it, it's high voltage, and and now they’ve lost their life simply because they didn’t just wait a day or two to get that done," he said.

Anyone who does run a chainsaw should be careful to follow standard precautions and wear eye protection, gloves and hearing protection, he said. 

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