DAYTONA BEACH — While the impact of Tropical Depression 9 is uncertain for Volusia and Flagler counties, emergency teams are keeping a watchful eye on the storm and are urging residents to be prepared nonetheless.
The weather system may strengthen into a major hurricane before its projected impact on the west coast of Florida in the middle of next week, according to the National Hurricane Center.
“The depression is moving toward the west-northwest near 15 mph,” the center’s 5 p.m. advisory said on Friday. “A westward motion is expected to begin tonight and continue through Saturday night, followed by a turn toward the west-northwest and northwest on Sunday and Monday.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order Friday evening, declaring a "state of emergency" for 24 Florida counties in the potential path of the coming storm.
More on the storm: Tropical Depression Nine may hit Florida's west coast as major hurricane
What to know about TD9: Is a hurricane going to hit Florida? What we know about Tropical Depression Nine
Early estimates on Friday said the system was likely to strengthen and become Tropical Storm Hermine. On the forecast track, the storm will likely move across the central Caribbean Sea through Saturday, pass south of Jamaica on Saturday night and Sunday, and approach the Cayman Islands on Sunday night and early Monday.
“Some slow strengthening is forecast during the next day or so,” the advisory added. “More significant intensification is forecast on Sunday and Monday.”
The center also said that while it is too soon to determine the exact magnitude and location of the storm’s impact and encouraged Florida residents to start preparing and monitor forecast updates through the weekend.
The National Weather Service in Melbourne echoed that message.
“It is still hard to say what the impacts will be specifically (to east central Florida) as of right now,” said Cassie Leahy of the National Weather Service in Melbourne. “There could be some land interaction with Cuba. It will probably be a few more days before we can talk about impacts specifically.”
“Heavy rainfall and gusty winds are possible and that is pretty much all we can say at this moment,” she added.
Leahy emphasized that the important thing now is for residents to “stay aware of the forecast,” and “take this time to make sure that their hurricane kits are well stocked and prepared.”
How Volusia County is preparing
That is what Volusia County and its emergency management team has already begun doing.
Jim Judge, the county’s interim emergency management director, said in a Friday morning live stream on the department’s Facebook page that “there is lots going on with (the Tropical Depression 9) system.”
“There is a potential threat, hurricane threat, for Florida,” Judge said. “There is still a great deal of uncertainty on where this system is going to go. It does look to be a hurricane, possibly impacting the west coast of Florida.”
Judge said emergency management would hold several conference calls with National Weather Service meteorologists on Friday to try to determine what impacts the storm could bring to Volusia.
“We want everyone to continue to pay close attention, continue to monitor our Facebook page, download our Volusia County Emergency Management app,” Judge said.
During the Facebook live stream, county officials went over what residents should have in their disaster supply kit in a worst case scenario.
Residents can visit the county's 'Get Prepared' webpage to see how they can properly prepare for the storm.
“This thing changes and it will continue to change,” Judge said. “We could be facing a hurricane situation here in the upcoming days.”
Cities in Volusia County are also making their preparations.
In Daytona Beach Shores, according to a city press release, sandbag distribution will begin this weekend from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, at Daytona Beach Shores City Hall, 2990 S. Atlantic Ave., and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25, at the Shores Community Center, 3000 Bellemead Drive. (just west of City Hall).
The city will have bags, sand and shovels (the sandbags are self-fill). There is a limit of 10 sandbags per household/business and proof of residency is required.
Hurricane passes for Shores residents, property owners and business owners and their essential personnel – to expedite return should evacuation be required – are available this weekend at the same times and locations, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday at the Daytona Beach Shores Department of Public Safety, 3050 S. Atlantic Ave. (unless the crews are on a call).
These passes are permanent and do not expire. Residents who already have a hurricane pass do not need to obtain a new one.
The city of Deltona is also distributing sandbags this weekend. The city will set up sandbag filling stations Saturday, Sept. 24, and Sunday, Sept. 25, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 191 Howland Blvd. (also known as Festival Park).
Residents must provide proof of residence and fill their own sandbags. The city is also asking residents to bring shovels and a helper (one person to hold the bags and one to fill the bags) to help expedite the sandbag filling.
There is a limit of 10 bags per household.
How Flagler County is preparing
The Flagler County Emergency Management team has also begun preparing and are encouraging residents to take time to prepare this weekend.
“While it is too early to tell what sort of impacts, if any, the storm will pose for Flagler County, this weekend is the perfect time to make sure you are ready for any potential hurricane,” said Flagler County Emergency Management Director Jonathan Lord in a news release on Friday.
Like Volusia, Flagler emergency management will also be in conversation with other state weather agencies to better determine what impacts the storm could have on the county.
“This weekend, expect continued high risk of rip currents and small craft advisories at our beaches and coastal waters due to the impacts of Hurricane Fiona to our northeast in the Atlantic Ocean — not ideal beach conditions,” Lord said. “But it is ideal for going to the store at your leisure to get any supplies you may need, filling up gas tanks, and to finalize any loose ends to your preparedness plan.”
The county's recommendations for what residents can do to prepare for the storm include:
Make a Plan — Talk to friends and family about how communicating before, during, and after a potential storm will work. Have a primary, secondary, and possibly even a tertiary plan for where to go in the event of an evacuation. Consider staying with family or friends outside of the evacuation area in addition to hotels or motels. Additionally, should we need to order an evacuation, public shelter(s) will be opened.
Build a Kit — Gather supplies necessary to be “Off-the-Grid” for a week after a disaster for everyone in the home. Don’t forget to consider the unique needs each person or pet may have. The kit should include food, water, medications, clothing, cash (as credit card/ATM machines may not work), radios, batteries, generators/fuel. Portability is key should evacuation be required.
Protect Property — Secure outdoor items that could take flight in a strong wind, including loose tree limbs. Prepare window and door protection, such as shutters, should they need to be installed. Those who live in flood-prone areas should buy sandbags — available at local hardware stores and through Amazon.
Sign up for Alert Flagler at www.flaglercounty.gov/alertflagler, to receive timely emergency notifications.
The city of Palm Coast also reminded residents possibly dangerous rip current conditions for next week.
"There is a high risk of rip currents and small craft advisories in Flagler County this weekend," a new release from the city said. "Coastal impacts are likely to start on Tuesday, September 27, which increases the chances for strong winds, coastal flooding, beach erosion, and heavy rainfall on Wednesday."
This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Tropical Depression 9 has Volusia, Flagler getting ready for next week