MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – People throughout the state are preparing for what could be a major hurricane by this weekend, and South Florida officials on Thursday were reminding residents to prepare now for the storm.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said homeowners and property owners who choose to trim their lawns or trees ahead of the storm will have to clear the debris themselves as the county will not be picking up debris before Hurricane Dorian.
He also reminded people that instead of buying bottled water, residents can just fill up their own jugs and bottles at home with tap water as it's perfectly safe to drink. Residents should then freeze the water in case they need it post-storm.
Those who live in a surge zone should have an evacuation plan and know where you will be going in the event that an evacuation order is issued.
Gimenez said the county has made some changes after learning from issues that arose during and after Hurricane Irma.
"We had the issue with the nursing homes. Obviously, we have made changes there. We've also updated the capacity of the sheltering that we have here in Miami-Dade County," Gimenez said. "We used to have the capacity of about 35,000 and now it's up to 100,000. We've changed who was operating those shelters. We used to have volunteers from the Red Cross."
While the mayor said the volunteers did a good job in running the shelters, all shelters will now be operated by Miami-Dade County personnel in conjunction with the school board.
Click here to view the Miami-Dade County Storm Surge Planning Zones
Click here to view the Broward County Emergency Evacuation Map
Currently, operations in Miami-Dade and Broward counties are continuing at the normal status.
Still, residents are urged to make sure they have medications handy, as well as important contact numbers. If you have emergency equipment, including hurricane shutters, make sure those are in good working order.
Outdoor items should be brought inside as they can become projectiles during a storm and, of course, protect areas in your home through which water can enter.
Meanwhile, county emergency services staff members are watching and waiting.
"EOC staff at this time are monitoring Hurricane Dorian and all employees are aware of the possibility of a full activation," Miami-Dade Fire Rescue spokeswoman Erika Benitez said. "In the event that we do go into a full activation, we will be fully staffed at EOC with reps from all agencies and all of our partners to coordinate efforts."
While the exact track of Hurricane Dorian remains unclear, Broward County officials warned South Floridians to be cautious and not evacuate to other areas that could also be seriously affected by the storm.
"Trying to forecast where the storm will go has proven very negative in many, many other storms. So if you think you're going to go to Orlando because it's going one way and the storm turns, you could find yourself caught in the roadway and in very vulnerable situations," Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue Chief Joe Fernandez said.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said he has spoken with emergency officials and there will be no impact to the regular school day or afterschool care programs on Friday. He said all activities after 6 p.m. Friday are canceled.
Broward County Public Schools officials also said their schools and after-school activities will operate on normal schedules Thursday and Friday, but all student activities, including athletic games, practices and clubs are canceled for Saturday through Monday.
Schools in both districts are closed Monday in observance of Labor Day.
The University of Miami announced Thursday that classes at the Coral Gables, marine and medical campuses will be canceled beginning at noon Friday and continuing through Tuesday. Classes are expected to resume as normal on Wednesday.
All UM events scheduled over Labor Day weekend on the Coral Gables and marine campuses have also been canceled.