JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As Matthew rapidly strengthened into an extremely dangerous category 5 hurricane Friday, emergency officials in northeast Florida began preparing for the storm and urged residents to have a plan in place.
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Division of Emergency Management continue to actively monitor Hurricane Matthew and urge everyone in Florida to remain vigilant and take all necessary precautions as it moves through the Caribbean over the weekend. The State Emergency Operations Center remains activated to Level 3.
“We are working closely with the NHC and will make sure to keep Floridians informed as we learn more about the track of this storm and its potential impacts on Florida," Scott said.
Residents are encouraged to visit FLGetAPlan.com to create an emergency plan.
"We stand ready to respond to any potential impacts this storm may have on Florida communities," said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon.
The tropical threat could bring a lot of wind, rain, heavy surf and high tides, which is why people at local marinas are being careful and making sure that everything is secured to the dock, locked up and tied down as they continue to watch Matthew closely.
Employees at the Palm Cove Marina on Beach Boulevard reviewed their hurricane plan Friday.
"We will also make sure that all these boats are secure and the lines are tight," said Lloyd Terry, the assistant dockmaster at Palm Cover Marina. "The tide is going to go real high and it is going to go real low, so we got to be ready for anything."
At Jacksonville Beach, surfers said they're hoping for bigger waves, unlike the calm ones Friday. But lifeguards warned that swimmers need to be careful.
"One of the biggest problems you have to deal with are the rip currents and the people that get caught in those," said Max Ervanian of Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue.
Lifeguards said they will be keeping an eye on the conditions over the next several days and watching Matthew's track.
"It is absolutely good to be prepared. With the last hurricane that kind of came close by, we , you know, it was a good little practice of what do in case we do get a stronger hurricane like Matthew approaching our area," Ervanian said.
Emergency officials in all 67 counties in Florida will be taking part in daily conference calls with local and state officials as Hurricane Matthew continues to gain strength.
Flagler County to prepare over weekend
Flagler County Emergency Management will be monitoring the path of Hurricane Matthew and recommended that residents shore up their individual hurricane plans and provisions over the weekend.
“It’s too early to tell exactly what path Matthew will travel,” said Flagler County Public Safety Emergency Manager Steve Garten. “We will have much better information by Monday, but we strongly encourage everyone to double check their emergency plans while we still have blue skies.”
It is unlikely that Flagler County will feel any impacts before Wednesday, and it is still unknown what Matthew will send to Florida’s east coast. Building surf and rip currents are the projected threat to the area at this time.
At home, preparations should include a pantry that is stocked with a week’s worth of non-perishable foods and juices; a gallon of water per person per day; a manual can opener and cooking foods and utensils; disposable plates and plasti cware; medicines -- including prescription drugs; flashlights and batteries; and, a manual or battery operated weather radio.
“Make sure those canned goods are things that you and your family will eat,” Garten said. “Have some comfort foods on hand too, especially if you have children. Don’t forget to have supplies for your pets, too.”
Residents can reduce the risk of water entering their homes by making sure that windows and doors have proper caulking and weather stripping and packaging valuable documents such as titles, deeds, insurance papers, bonds, in waterproof containers for safekeeping.
“It’s also a good idea to fill the tank of your car,” said County Administrator Craig Coffey. “Even if we aren’t hit hard, bad weather in other areas could slow the delivery of commodities like gasoline.”
Garten also recommended that residents determine if they live in an evacuation zone. For more information, go to flagleremergency.com.
“The decision to evacuate a zone is based on the track and intensity of the specific storm,” Garten said. “We will make sure everyone knows if and when they need to evacuate.”
Dredging in Vilano Beach ahead of Matthew
Any time a tropical threat is expected to impact the northeast Florida coast, erosion is always a concern, especially in Vilano Beach.
IMAGES: Dredging in Vilano Beach
Late last month, Vilano Beach was closed to vehicles for the immediate future due to increased erosion, rising surf and unusually high tides, St. Johns County officials said.
Local officials will be monitoring the area as Matthew approaches.
OneBlood urges blood donations before storm
OneBlood urged anyone eligible to please donate blood in the coming days to help ensure a supply should Hurricane Matthew impact Florida.
The most critical time for blood donations is prior to any storm in order to sustain the blood supply during and immediately after the event, according to OneBlood.
For a list of OneBlood Donor Centers and Big Red Bus blood drive locations ,visit oneblood.org.