There are problem spots you face every year during a storm season in Northeast Florida- and some of those will now be classified as new evacuation zones under changes at the state level.
New evacuation maps which cover much of the region now factor in expected flooding, storm surge and potential for isolation as well as wind speed of an approaching storm. Duval County Emergency Preparedness Director Steve Woodard says that will give them a better handle on how to handle approaching storms.
“We have new technology, new mapping, new surveys of the county,” Woodard says.
Duval always has an eye on flood prone areas like McCoys Creek even in a standard thunderstorm, but Woodard says they’re watching all bodies of water- from the St. Johns River to tributaries across the county.
It’s the amount of water that’s already on the ground in Clay County which has Emergency Management Deputy Director John Ward somewhat concerned. He says the significant amount of rainfall that has come in recent weeks has put them off to a soggy start.
“Causes a concern, as saturated as we are, for our creek basin. There’s not a lot of area for the water to go,” Ward says.
They’re always monitoring Black Creek, which has faced flooding in the last few years. Ward says other low-lying areas like Orange Park South, Middleburg and Clay Hill could be a problem because of the already wet conditions.
The St. Marys River which cuts through Baker County is the main focus for their Emergency Management Department, but Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant Chris Volz says they’ve made infrastructure changes this year to try to stave off one of the biggest problems- road washouts.
“We put a roadbed in that can help sustain itself if there’s more flooding or rainfall than we can take,” Volz says.
The improvements have come on Steel Bridge Road and off Crews Road. He says they are also taking a more proactive approach when storms threaten in those areas, as well as the Little Dixie portion of Taylor.
Proactive is the key word in St. Johns County as well, where a local state of emergency has already been declared twice this year for a portion of South Ponte Vedra threatened by beach erosion. Emergency Management Director Linda Stoughton says that lets the homeowners in the area get more help preventing further problems ahead of the storm.
The new evacuation zones mean big changes for the rest of the county, however.
“We have the Atlantic Ocean to our East, we have the Intracoastal Waterway, and our western boundary is the St. Johns River,” she says.
The maps mean new areas between A1A and the Intracoastal will now be called on to evacuate early in an approaching threat.
In Nassau County, Emergency Management says they will now be pushing for a full evacuation of Amelia Island in the event of a tropical system.
“There’s only two ways in and two ways out,” says Director Billy Estep.
The new maps give weight to the potential for an area to become isolated because of flooding and other weather factors, even if the area itself may have a relatively small threat. That’s why they will now fully evacuate the Island- including emergency responders. They will also closely monitor some of the flood-prone areas, like around Lofton Creek.
While there are always a few problem spots that have emergency management on alert, the message across the board is that no matter where you live you need to always be prepared. That includes knowing your evacuation zone, registering for emergency alert systems like Code Red, and keeping a disaster kit on hand.
Further details on the resources you need to know about can be found on the emergency management websites for the respective counties, linked above. When severe weather does threaten, stick with WOKV on 104.5FM/AM690 for everything you need to know.