Hurricane Dorian: Under a hurricane warning and an evacuation order, Palm Beach seemed peaceful Sunday afternoon.
Under a blue sky dotted with cotton-white clouds, Palm Beach seemed remarkably peaceful a couple of hours after an official mandatory evacuation launched Sunday in response to Hurricane Dorian.
The quiet streets were far away from the chaos that was occurring just 220 miles to the east, where the phenomenally powerful Category 5 storm was pummeling the Bahamas with 185-mph winds.
As of the 5 p.m. forecast from the National Hurricane Center, Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast were placed under a hurricane warning, meaning that hurricane-strength winds of at least 74 mph could be in the offing.
The storm’s centerline-track was still projected to remain off Florida’s coast and Dorian was still expected to weaken as it heads west at some point from the Bahamas before making a turn to the north.
But exactly where that turn will occur in relation to Palm Beach County’s coastline remains unclear, meteorologists said. Florida residents were warned to keep their guard up in the face of this unpredictable storm, which on Friday had been forecast to make a direct hit on the coast, possibly at Palm Beach.
The forecast had brightened with Saturday’s prediction that the storm might remain off shore. But today’s hurricane warning reiterated the seriousness of Dorian’ threat to locals.
The outer bands of the hurricane are predicted to arrive by late Monday, bringing tropical storm-force winds of less than 73 mph. Hurricane-strength winds could follow, depending on the storm’s ultimate path.
Hurricane Dorian: 5 p.m. update: Crushes Bahamas as Cat 5 with 185-mph winds. Hurricane warning for Jupiter Inlet through Treasure Coast
“Good luck to everyone”
Sunday’s evacuation order came on a day that dawned with Palm Beach County under a hurricane watch and a tropical-storm warning.
Stores and restaurants were closed Sunday afternoon, parking lots were deserted and there was only sporadic traffic on the roads. Many of the buildings on the main commercial thoroughfares stood with their windows covered in plywood sheets or aluminum shutters.
On North County Road, Patrick Poupart, who owns the Top Cycle Palm Beach bike shop, was finishing up securing his shop windows with plywood. On one of the boards was a hand-lettered message in French: "Vas te Faire voir Ailleurs Dorian," it read. "Bonne chance a tous."
Poupart translated: The sentences mean roughly "Go somewhere else, Dorian. Good luck to everyone."
If you looked carefully, you could see how the name "Irma" had been crossed out and replaced by "Dorian." Hurricane Irma had sent tropical-storm force winds through Palm Beach on its pass-by in 2017.
Poupart was eyeing the storm drains near his shop warily. They sometimes clog and send water over the sidewalks, he said.
Earlier Sunday, Deputy Town Manager Jay Boodheshwar had once again told the Daily News that the threat of flooding and storm surge was the main reason low-lying areas such as Palm Beach are evacuated when a hurricane threatens. A storm surge warning has been issued from Lantana to the Volusia and Brevard county line.
Poupart was taking the threat seriously.
"I got to go get some sandbags," he said, adding that some of the ones he had used previously to seal up his shop’s front door had since deteriorated.
RELATED: Hurricane Dorian: Palm Beach residents to begin evacuating; official order issued when county shelters open
Police on patrol
Municipal beaches and parks had closed in anticipation of the evacuation order, but that didn’t stop some beachgoers from testing the surf, which seemed surprisingly calm considering what was churning a couple of hundred miles away.
Among those at Midtown Beach was Brian Hiltebeitel
"We just came to get a little sun," said Hiltebeitel, who had driven over from his apartment in downtown West Palm Beach.
"I’m staying here," he answered, when asked if he planned to leave the area in advance of Dorian. "I’ve been here 10 years. It’s the fourth storm I’ve been through."
He said he felt relatively safe across the bridge, considering that forecasters said Dorian might remain offshore.
"If it rides up the coast, we’ll be all right. We’ll just get a lot of wind and rain," he said.
And if Dorian comes ashore, he added, he hoped it would be a weaker hurricane that his building could easily withstand.
At that point in the conversation, Hiltebeitel was interrupted by a Palm Beach police officer, who pulled his vehicle alongside the beachfront sidewalk and spoke through a loud speaker.
"There’s a mandatory evacuation as of 1 p.m.," the officer said. "Please get in your car and and head across one of the bridges."
Police vehicles and motorcycles could be seen throughout the afternoon in every section of town.
At the Town Docks, only three yachts were tied up to the piers, the majority having sailed away over the past few days to safer berths.
Likewise, one of the docks’ parking lots was completely empty, except for a vintage Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow parked against a hedge.
In the Phipps Plaza historical district, houses and business were shuttered. There were a few cars still parked in front of the homes, including a brilliant blue Masarati and a black Mercedes sedan.
On Royal Poinciana Way, resident Anne Rowe was standing on the street, taking a photo of her shuttered apartment above the Couture and More boutique. She said she was preparing to evacuate to her brother’s house in a gated community across the bridge.
But she wanted a photo to document the apartment and, perhaps, to preserve a memory — just in case.
RELATED: Hurricane Dorian: Palm Beach delays evacuation decision as storm path shifts eastward