With Tropical Storm Beryl expected to pass over or near Jacksonville on Sunday night Mayor Alvin Brown ordered a state of emergency, ended the Jazz Festival early, postponed the Memorial Day ceremony and urged people to stay out of the water and off the streets.
"We are encouraging all residents to stay indoors," Brown said at a Sunday news conference at the Emergency Operations Center. "We don't want you to be complacent. We want you to take this seriously."
While no evacuations were anticipated, he urged people in low-lying areas to seek shelter because of possible flooding from Beryl's rains. There could also be trees and utility lines down, causing power outages and hazardous driving conditions.
"The St. Johns River is always a concern for us," Senterfitt said. "If the storm impacts south of the St. Johns River, it starts backing the river up, and that's where we see our traditional flooding in Riverside, Avondale, McCoy's creek, Hogans Creek and all of those tributaries."
The city's two oceanfront parks -- Hanna and Huguenot -- and all Duval County beaches were closed Sunday. While people will be permitted to walk on the beach, no lifeguards were on duty and rough surf and rip currents made for extremely dangerous conditions.
No warning from lifeguards or the mayor was enough to keep brothers Patrick and Dave Bergin from catching a wave.
"I think it's OK to go in if you know what you're doing," Patrick said. "It's pretty gnar out there though."
The beach was surprisingly busy, considering how grey the skies were and how violent the wind was. Families and couples went out for a stroll.
"I know that's not a popular decision," Emergency Preparedness Chief Marty Senterfitt said. "I've already been called by several of our most adamant surfers, but the reality is, is in Tropical Storm Faye, the only fatality was a visitor who saw people surfing, thought the water was safe, went in to the water, was swept out to sea and was killed."
The city and U.S. Coast Guard urge boaters to stay off the water and all port operations ceased at noon Sunday until after the storm passes.
"The bottom line is to treat Sunday as a day to prepare," Brown said. "Make sure your homes are secured and your family plan is in order. As the weather worsens, we suggest you stay indoors Sunday evening."
The Duval County Emergency Operations Center has activated a Level 1 warning, the highest. Public works and JEA personnel are preparing for storm conditions, tides 1 to 3 feet above normal and 3 to 6 inches of rainfall as Beryl passes through the area Sunday night and Monday.
The mayor said a shelter opened at noon Sunday at the Legend Center at Soutel and Moncrief in Northwest Jacksonville. Anyone who is energy or oxygen dependent should use the shelter in the event of a power outage or flooding.
"We do anticipate standing water, so be careful driving. We do anticipate trees down," Sheriff John Rutherford said. "Also, Florida law says if you approach an intersection and the lights are out, treat it as a four-way stop."
The city said Jacksonville Sheriff's Office will staff area bridges through the night and are prepared to close bridges if wind gusts pass 40 mph. Channel 4 chief meteorologist John Gaughan said if winds get that high, it would be late Sunday night or early Monday morning.
Some incoming flights at Jacksonville International Airport were cancelled for Sunday night and Monday morning.
While Sunday's outdoor Jazz festival events were canceled, a few scheduled indoor events will continue and the Jacksonville Landing announced it will be open and local musicians will perform in the courtyard as long as conditions permit.
The city announced Monday morning's Memorial Day ceremony has been canceled and will rescheduled at a later date. Garbage, yard waste and recycling collection has also been canceled for Monday.
All incoming and outgoing flights at Jacksonville International Airport except for two flights each with JetBlue and Delta were cancelled for Sunday night and Monday morning.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority suspended bus operations serving the Beaches on Sunday night. JTA said all inland bus routes will continue to operate normally, with the exception of stops scheduled for any area east of the Intracoastal Waterway. Beaches service will resume when the weather conditions are safe to do so, officials said.
Customers may call JTA Dispatch at 904-632-5542 for additional service information.
Organizers of Sunday's Concert on the Green in Orange Park canceled the event, saying they will honor any tickets sold at next year's concert. All Memorial Day events in Green Cove Springs were also cancelled.
On Saturday, lifeguards had to pull three adults, one teenager and two young children from the rough surf at Jacksonville-area beaches. One of those required hospitalization.
"The storm has already impacted public safety," Brown said.
For more information about Jacksonville's storm preparations, visit jaxready.org or call 904-630-CITY.