Officials keep watchful eye on Dorian

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Rhode Island and the rest of southern New England appear set to avoid the worst potential effects of Hurricane Dorian, although local officials continue to monitor the storm and prepare for the possibility of high winds and other severe conditions later this week.

With 39 miles of shoreline and large areas of the Warwick susceptible to flooding, Chief of Police Col. Rick Rathbun – who also serves as the city’s director of emergency management – is keeping a close eye on Dorian. He suggests that residents do the same, advising Wednesday that residents “monitor the storm beginning yesterday.”

In addition, the chief urged residents to be “proactive in securing your property” – everything from patio furniture to a boat. Even should Dorian follow a path taking it far offshore, he pointed out this is the season for storms and efforts to take precautions now may well be helpful in the weeks ahead.

Rathbun has called for a meeting with city department directors this morning at the Emergency Operations Center in Fire Headquarters to confirm what resources are available, from chainsaws to dump trucks. The meeting will also serve to confirm lines of communication and measures to be taken should the storm escalate, which would include establishing shelters and staging manpower and equipment should areas need to be evacuated. Post-storm measures will also be discussed.

“We want to make sure all our ducks are in a row,” he said.

Although Dorian’s path is a matter of calculated guesswork at this time, Rathbun pointed out one of the few certainties are the tides. He will be attentively monitoring projections for Dorian’s arrival – projected for Friday afternoon and into Saturday morning, as of Wednesday morning – and comparing that to the tides.

He urged people to watch for rip currents and a tidal surge even if the state is spared a direct hit or glancing blow. He said updates on Dorian and measures being taken locally and by the state will be carried by the media and on social media.

Hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas over a two-day period earlier this week, killing multiple people and causing enormous damage. As of Wednesday, it remained off the east coast of Florida, designated as a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds of 105 mph.

Coastal areas of the Southeast, particularly the Carolinas, were bracing for the storm’s potential impact. The likelihood of intense storm surges along the coast drew perhaps the most concern.

Projections show the remains of Dorian remaining well offshore as the storm passes by Southern New England later this week. As of Wednesday, the National Weather Service’s seven-day forecast for the area called only for a chance of showers on Friday night and Saturday. On Friday night, winds were projected to be between 9 and 14 mph with gusts up to 24 mph. Winds during the day on Saturday were projected at 11 to 15 mph.

Wednesday’s Hazardous Weather Outlook from the National Weather Service forecast no hazardous conditions from Thursday through Saturday for Providence and Kent Counties. Coastal areas are facing some effects from the storm, however.

The National Weather Service issued a warning for Washington and Newport Counties for the same Thursday-Sunday timeframe, with cautions of “dangerous surf and a high risk of rip currents” for the area’s Atlantic shoreline. The agency says the severe conditions are most likely late Friday night as Dorian passes offshore.

“[T]here is the threat of tropical storm force winds, especially across the outer Cape and Nantucket, along with tropical downpours resulting in one to two inches of rainfall in a short period of time,” the warning reads. “Localized urban, poor drainage flooding is possible with tropical downpours.”

The National Weather Service additionally advised mariners in Rhode Island Sound, Narragansett Bay, Block Island Sound and other bodies of water in the region to be cautious between Thursday and Saturday.

“Strong northeast winds and dangerous seas are possible as Hurricane Dorian makes its closest approach to Southern New England,” the agency said. “Mariners are urged to monitor the latest forecasts through this week.”

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