A model released by the University of Michigan, Industrial & Operations Engineering program shows that as many as 8.1 million people, or 2.7 to 4 million customers, could lose power.
Dorian, currently a strong Category 2 hurricane, is expected to strengthen into a Category 4 storm with winds of 140 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC) based in Miami, Florida. The storm is expected to affect the Sunshine State toward the end of the Labor Day weekend and is forecast to batter its residents with wind, heavy rains, and storm surge.
“Our model predicts the fraction of the population (people) without power. Utilities report the number of customers (meters) without power. Our past research has found that in Florida there are approximately 2-3 people per meter on average across the area. To compare our predictions with what utilities end up reporting, use the customer number estimate on the graphic, not the population estimate,” the university’s researchers wrote on its website. It noted that there is an uncertainty in the track of the hurricane.
They also wrote: “These are experimenal results, not a fully operational forecasting model. This model takes as input track and intensity forecasts from the National Hurricane Center and estimates the fraction of the population without power at the census tract level,” adding that the model is for “informational purposes only.”
It noted that if the storm deviates to the south and hits the Miami-Dade area, more people could lose power. The official forecast would bring Dorian onshore south of Orlando in Central Florida.
According to the utility company Florida Power & Light (FPL), CEO Eric Silagy stated, “With a storm of Dorian’s potential magnitude, we expect outages to occur, but [electric grid] investments will help speed our restoration process,” reported the Sun-Sentinel. They also stated 13,000 utility workers have been brought in to deal with the disaster.
During Hurricane Irma in 2017, some 4.2 million FPL customers lost power across the state.
FPL customers can go to the website FPL.com/storm or download the FPL app to get information on power outages.
President Donald Trump—whose Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach was in the crosshairs—warned it could be an “absolute monster.” “All indications are it’s going to hit very hard and it’s going to be very big,” Trump said in a tweeted video, comparing Dorian to Hurricane Andrew, which obliterated thousands of homes south of Miami with winds topping 165 mph (266 kph) in 1992, according to The Associated Press.
Trump declared a state of emergency in Florida and authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate disaster-relief efforts. The hurricane center’s projected track showed the storm hitting around Palm Beach County, the site of Mar-a-Lago.
At NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, NASA began slowly moving a 380-foot-high mobile launch platform to the safety of the colossal Vehicle Assembly Building, built to withstand 125 mph wind. The launcher is for the mega rocket that NASA is developing to take astronauts to the moon. The hurricane season typically peaks between mid-August and late October.
One of the most powerful storms ever to hit the U.S. was on Labor Day in 1935. The unnamed Category 5 hurricane crashed ashore along Florida’s Gulf Coast on Sept. 2. It was blamed for over 400 deaths.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.