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Jax Daily Record Friday, Aug. 30, 201902:18 PM EST

Northeast Florida businesses, organizations prepare for Hurricane Dorian

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Builders, Visit Jacksonville, JaxPort and colleges and universities await the storm.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

As Hurricane Dorian makes its way to Florida, organizations and businesses in Northeast Florida are preparing. 

Dorian was a Category Two storm as of midday Friday, about 600 miles off the coast of West Palm Beach. It was heading northwest in the Atlantic and expected to make landfall in South Florida on Monday morning before turning north. 

Mayor Lenny Curry is urging residents to be prepared for the storm and its uncertain path.

Visit Jacksonville has been in communication with area hotels and the city to make sure any visitors who need help can get it, said Katie Mitura, vice president of marketing and communications. 

Mitura said the organization received requests to coordinate lodging for emergency crews that may be moving into the area.

On Thursday, the Florida State and Boise State football game, originally planned Saturday at TIAA Bank Field, was relocated to Tallahassee. Mitura said that, along with the cancellation and rescheduling of other events this weekend, would slow Labor Day weekend tourism. 

“It’s not going to be a great week for tourism,” Mitura said. “But that doesn’t matter to us right now. What matters is the safety of tourists.”

Visit Jacksonville suspended its marketing campaigns to discourage visitors from coming until it’s safe, she said.

Daniel Davis, president and CEO of JAX Chamber, said the most important issue is protecting employees and their families. 

Once the storm passes, Davis said the Chamber will work to help Jacksonville and other affected communities return to normal business operations.

“I think sometimes people can have a misconceived perception (of storm damage) just by watching a national news clip, and it’s important that they know that the entire state is open for business after an event takes place,” Davis said.  

The University of North Florida, Jacksonville University and Florida State College at Jacksonville canceled classes through Tuesday. As of midday Friday, Duval County Public Schools had not canceled classes.

As of Friday afternoon, JaxPort was open to commercial traffic without restrictions. Public Information Officer Chelsea Kavanaugh said the port has a full-time security emergency preparedness planner on staff who has helped lead hurricane preparation efforts. 

Construction projects across the county are expected to pause as the storm moves through, and crews are preparing their sites in the days leading up to the storm, said Northeast Florida Builders Association Executive Officer Bill Garrison. 

He said he emailed his membership Wednesday with guidelines on how to secure their job sites. 

“They’re basically battening down the hatches,” Garrison said. “You go around and get all the debris off your job sites to the best of your ability. But just try to get all the loose lumber picked up, put it in garages and secure it. When the high winds come through, it picks up stuff and starts blowing it around the neighborhood.”

Garrison said as of midday Friday, he and the organization are taking a “wait-and-see” approach. He planned to close the NEFBA office on Tuesday, but if the storm passes or changes course away from the state, that may change. 

While the storm disrupts normal construction operations, what’s most important is giving employees time to prepare themselves, he said.

“The reality is, these people have families and homes they have to go protect,” Garrison said. “You try to get all the stuff prepared ahead of time and let the employees go take care of their families.”

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