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Central Florida groups hurry up and wait before responding to Hurricane Fiona, welcoming evacuees

Hurricane Fiona was heading north from the Dominican Republic Monday afternoon, still flooding Puerto Rico with heavy rains. Image: NOAA
Hurricane Fiona was heading north from the Dominican Republic Monday afternoon, still flooding Puerto Rico with heavy rains. Image: NOAA

Central Florida government, church and nonprofit leaders are poised to boost Hurricane Fiona relief efforts in Puerto Rico and to welcome evacuees should they come to Orlando.

Even as Hurricane Fiona's heavy rain continued to pummel Puerto Rico -- and the Dominican Republic -- these leaders gathered on a Zoom call Monday to combine efforts and urge patience.

Episcopal priest and group organizer Father Jose Rodriguez is warning people to be wary of scams and donate only to trusted agents.

The new collaboration comes nearly five years after Hurricane Maria forced hundreds of thousands to flee the U.S. territory.

"We don't know if there is going to be a big wave of displacement or if it's going to be small," Rodrigues aid. "All we know is that today we're handling problems on island. But we also have to be ready and prudent to help people that arrive here."

Orlando City Councilman Tony Ortiz expects updates through emergency management and from his contacts in Puerto Rico.

"I know that when the time comes everybody is going to be joining in," he said on the call. "And as I said, this is just one of those things where rush, rush ... as we used to say in the SWAT team rush, rush and rush to wait and see what happens."

The group is registering nonprofits and getting ready to coordinate relief.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.