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Florida transplants from New Bedford await Dorian

A surfer walked to the beach in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday as Hurricane Dorian approached.AFP/Getty Images

As Hurricane Dorian bore down on the Bahamas, a pocket of New Bedford transplants on Florida’s eastern shore wondered what was ahead for them.

The last time Jack Maravell was in Massachusetts as a major hurricane bore down on Florida, he returned to find his condo roof had caved in, leaving him homeless for a year.

When the eye of Dorian made landfall in the northern Bahamas Sunday afternoon, maximum sustained winds were clocked at 185 miles per hour, which tied for the strongest Atlantic hurricane landfall on record, according to the National Weather Service. The slow-moving storm could take a hook into Florida at some point midweek, forecasters said.

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“I think if you live on the coast you get hurricanes, but down there they’re really more scary,” said Maravell, 64, a Paul McCartney impersonator who lives in Fort Pierce, a small Florida city that he said is just like New Bedford.

In Florida, he said, “it’s a direct hit: You’re just hanging over [the water] and it’s like bam,” he said in a phone interview.

Lila Bryant, 62, is also one of a small pocket of people who grew up in New Bedford and now live on Florida’s Atlantic coast. She spoke to the Globe on the phone while watching the growing waves.

“It’s not even getting started and we can tell already we’re going to lose the boardwalk and all the stairs,” Bryant said from Vero Beach, not far from Fort Pierce.

She and her husband had been preparing for the hurricane for days, she said, along with her two daughters and a childhood friend from New Bedford who all once again live on the same street.

“The minute you see the Weather Channel and [meteorologist] Jim Cantore in the next town . . . you know it’s going to be serious,” Bryant said.

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But after almost 30 years in Florida, Bryant said, she and her husband know the drill.

Their Mercedes-Benz is parked in front of the garage door to help prevent wind from getting in and ripping the roof off. She was scanning a local Facebook group for updates on what stores had received generator shipments and where people could still buy gas. Grocery store shelves keep on emptying. It cost $300 to put up hurricane shutters that have to come back down within two weeks at her gated community, because they are a fire hazard.

And the New Bedford transplants, including her grandson and his Florida Atlantic University roommates, are on tenterhooks as the forecast keeps shifting. She “took the lock off the cabinet” of hurricane food when the original evacuation and shelter orders were lifted. Then, the orders were back on.

“It takes only a few storms before you start making your own ice at just the word hurricane,” she said, explaining that she uses the ice to preserve food when the power goes out.

But even if the storm mostly spares the Florida coast, Bryant and Maravell will worry about the Bahamas, where both have spent time.

Bryant has three cruises planned there this year. And Maravell’s Beatles tribute band, McCartney Mania, regularly performs on cruises to the islands.

“There’s one island that we always stop at,” Maravell said. “I’m afraid it’s going to get flattened.”

He was glad to be back in New Bedford as the storm threatened Florida and his newfound home of 18 years.

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But his thoughts were still with his fellow transplants in Florida.

For some, their “anxiety level is going through the roof,” he said. “Pardon the pun.”


Lucas Phillips can be reached at lucas.phillips@globe.com.