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St. Augustine Fire Chief: 'This storm can kill you'
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St. Augustine Fire Chief: 'This storm can kill you'

St. Augustine Fire Chief: 'This storm can kill you'
Photo Credit: Robert Alonso
St. Augustine Fire Department shirt

St. Augustine Fire Chief: 'This storm can kill you'

He says Hurricane Matthew can "kill you" and that you shouldn't even think about trying to ride this storm out, especially if you live in St. Augustine.

Carlos Aviles - the chief of the St. Augustine Fire Department - is ordering all of his firefighters and fire trucks out of the city by Friday, just before the worst of Matthew - expected to remain a major hurricane - brushes by the First Coast.

"Fires will burn," Aviles added after the National Weather Service in Jacksonville updated the storm's track and expected impact during a conference call at the St. Johns County Emergency Operations Center this morning. "There's nothing we can do about things that will happen."

Major storm surge is expected in the First City, flooding the streets to the point where fire trucks won't be able to use them, even after the storm passes.

On top of that, all SAFD stations are expected to be flooded, which is why Aviles is having his crews station on higher ground near the city and on standby to come in once the storm passes and it's safe to do so.

"At some point Friday, [we will] not [be] able to deliver any essential services to the city of St. Augustine," Aviles noted. "There will be no one at your fire stations to render any aid to you."

The St. Augustine Police Department will also stop answering calls for help sometime on Friday and all city services will also stop around the same time, according to city spokesman Paul Williamson.

When those services will come back is the big question, one that Aviles says just can't be answered at this point. But he says you need to expect at least a week without power and without being able to buy food or gas your vehicle.

"The level of destruction will be catastrophic," Aviles noted. "[Matthew] could reshape our entire coastline as we know it. If you are choosing to ride this out, you are taking your own life into your own hands."

Similar words were used by St. Johns County Emergency Operations Center Director Linda Stoughton after activating the county EOC to its highest possible status.

"This is an event that people haven't seen in over 100 years," Stoughton stated.

At least 159,000 have been ordered to evacuate in St. Johns as of this morning, primarily along the coast, in the town of Hastings and along low-lying parts of the St. Johns River. The county as a whole has a population of around 210,000.

Four county shelters opened at 6 o'clock this morning: Pablo Menendez High School, Bartram Trail High School, Pacetti Bay Middle School and Timberlin Creek Elementary School. Other than Menendez, all are accepting residents in need.

Four more shelters opened at 1 p.m.: South Woods Elementary School, Mill Creek Elementary School, Osceola Elementary School and Otis Mason Elementary School.

All are general shelters except for Pacetti Bay (special medical needs), South Woods (pet-friendly) and Timberlin Creek (pet-friendly).

If you're going to a shelter, county officials are asking you to please bring your own bedding and chairs you can sit in. Nothing else is being provided other than space, food and first aid.

Northeast Florida Regional Airport will close at 6 p.m. tonight to all but emergency flights.

Free sandbags will still be available while supplies last at Ron Parker Park, the Simms Pit, under the Palm Valley Bridge, Hastings City Hall and Mills Field.

County officials say there should have more bags available to fill this morning. There was a chronic shortage all day yesterday at all locations due to demand being stronger than anticipated.

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