Hurricane Dorian, which stalled over the Bahamas, has reportedly killed five people and caused devastating damage to the Abacos and Grand Bahama Islands.

The hurricane made landfall on Abacos Islands, Bahamas more than 30 hours ago, then moving over to Grand Bahama Island, and the National Hurricane Center advisory on Monday said the area was experiencing catastrophic winds and storm surges.

As of 5 p.m. Monday Dorian had slowed to a crawl in the warm waters of the Caribbean, leaving most of Florida to carefully track its trajectory. It had been downgraded to a category 4 storm, packing 145 miles per hour.

The city of Miami will resume normal operations on Tuesday, as well as the county of Miami-Dade. Miami-Dade County Public Schools will be closed Tuesday, Sept. 3. On Friday, night school and weekend athletic and extracurricular activities were canceled, except for a few football games.

As of Monday, Golden Beach north to Deerfield Beach was under a tropical storm watch, which means within 36 hours the area may experience tropical storm conditions.

In Miami-Dade County, residents changed Labor Day weekend plans to start collections for storm ravaged Bahamas.

Volunteers met at Community Emergency Operations Center in Miami to wrap and pack diapers, first-aid kits, canned foods, water, toiletries, medicine, paper towels, hammers and shovels for Bahamas hurricane relief. The effort is being coordinated by The Smile Trust, founded by Valencia Gunder.

Gunder, 36, wasn't happy that the county did not offer people the means to prepare for the storm.

"They don't offer before the storm. They do post-relief efforts," she said. "Nothing has been done for residents of Miami. No prep supplies have been given out except for sandbags."
 
Gunder has been busy working on emergency preparedness through her Community Emergency Operations Centers in Liberty City, Little Haiti, Miami Gardens and Fort Lauderdale.
 
"This is 100% grassroots volunteer effort," Gunder said Sunday, Sept. 1. "Resiliency is expensive. We come together to fill a gap to assist vulnerable communities and we believe our neighbor is our first responder."

As Dorian makes its way towards Florida, communities throughout the county remained vigilant of the storm and began their preparations.

“If anything, we will get a lot of water,” said Gail Wynter, a Richmond Heights resident. “I pray that we do not get hit.”

She was one of over 500 families that picked up fruits, canned goods, and other nonperishables at a free food distribution set up at Second Baptist Church in Richmond Heights on Thursday. The food distribution was spearheaded by State Rep. Kionne McGhee in collaboration with Farm Share, a nonprofit organization.  

“Food is very essential, next to safety,” McGhee said.

State officials advise residents to prepare a food supply to last at least seven days.

“Preparation, preparation, preparation; there is no other way to describe it,” McGhee said.

President Donald Trump issued a state of emergency for Florida on Friday, opening the way for FEMA aid to the state. Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency earlier this week, while Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez also declared state of emergency for the county on Friday.

"This allows us to hire a contractor as needed and gives my office certain powers, such as calling for a curfew, if needed," Gimenez said.

Hurricane Dorian had grown to a category 5 storm but had been downgraded to category 4 storm on Labor Day, the National Hurricane Center said Monday.

No evacuation orders were in place, yet Miami-Dade County leaders advised residents to know if they lived in an evacuation zone in case an evacuation call is made. "Now is definitely the time for everyone to be completing all hurricane preparations," Gimenez said.

As news reports showed residents rushing to get packs of water, the mayor assured the county’s tap water is good to drink. Gimenez encouraged residents to fill up, refrigerate, and freeze plastic containers with water for drinking and ice. Residents should have a gallon of water per person per day for at least three days after the storm, county officials said.

As of Friday, the county’s solid waste department will continue to pick up bulky trash requests.

“The county’s solid waste department is working diligently to pick up all bulky trash requests, and they will continue to do so until winds get too strong,” Gimenez said.

Residents were encouraged to take tree trimmings to local trash recycling centers as part of their preparation for the storm.

To ward off people wishing to take advantage of the storm preparation, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office set up a price-gouging hotline where residents can report price gouging.

Price gouging is a criminal offense, said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.  “We are joining efforts with the Miami-Dade Police Department to combat greedy individuals and businesses that may use tragic events like a hurricane to take advantage of our community’s fundamental needs,” she said.

Freelancer Philippe H. Buteau and editor Carolyn Guniss contributed to this report.

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