Mandatory evacuation ordered in Palm Beach, Martin counties; includes Mar-a-Lago

Mandatory evacuation orders for parts of Palm Beach County and Martin County are being issued starting at 1 p.m., as a now-Category 5 Hurricane Dorian reached the Bahamas and nears Florida’s east coast, state emergency director Jared Moskowitz said Sunday morning.

The orders for Zones A and B in both counties cover residents in low-lying areas or mobile housing and affect about 215,000 people in all. Shelters are opening in those counties at the same time, Moskowitz said.

The evacuation zones, organized from A to E, correspond to storm surge risk based on the category strength of a hurricane. In Palm Beach County, one of the state’s most populous regions, the evacuation order affects about 183,000 residents who live in mobile home parks, barrier islands or other at-risk regions from the Jupiter inlet to the county’s southern border with Broward County. In Martin, about 38,000 residents are affected.

The two counties are among several expected to issue evacuation orders before tropical storm force winds start lashing the east coast in the next 48 hours. Gov. Ron DeSantis said Sunday afternoon that St. Lucie County will be starting evacuations at 2 p.m. for all areas east of U.S. 1, and that Indian River, Volusia and St. Johns counties are implementing their own evacuation plans shortly.

Flagler, Duval and Nassau counties will also be announcing plans soon, he said.

Palm Beach officials, issuing the order Sunday morning, warned residents to travel west and inland rather than north, given Dorian’s projected path up the coast. They also cautioned that residents should shelter within the county, most of which is not covered in the evacuation order.

The zones named in the evacuation orders cover long swaths of the county’s beach front, including President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.

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As people begin to heed the evacuation orders, DeSantis said Sunday afternoon he was directing the state Department of Transportation to suspend tolls on Alligator Alley, SR 528 (Beachline), the Sawgrass Expressway (SR 869) and the Florida Turnpike Mainline (SR 91), including the Homestead Extension (SR 821). After a request from Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, DeSantis said he had also approved suspending tolls on SR 417 and SR 429, which the state Department of Transportation was in the process of putting into place.

Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the Bahamas around midday Sunday, and forecasters reported maximum sustained winds had reached 185 mph as it hit Elbow Cay in the Abacos. Forecasters say the storm could linger over the islands of the Bahamas as its speed slows.

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Elizabeth Koh is a state government reporter in the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times’ shared Tallahassee bureau, where she covers the Florida Legislature with a focus on health care politics and policy. A Brown University graduate, she covered local politics for the Washington Post and national politics for the Dallas Morning News’ D.C. bureau before joining the Herald in 2017.