Clay County worried about flooding, outages from Dorian

Schools closed until Thursday; officials to update status at 3 p.m. Tuesday

By Kelly Wiley - I-TEAM reporter, Roxy Tyler - Web producer

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Shelters open, evacuations begin in Clay County

Clay County Emergency Management officials are closely monitoring tidal water levels of the St. Johns River and Doctors Lake as it is forecast that Hurricane Dorian will slowly travel up the eastern coast of Florida. 

The Clay County Citizens Call Center is open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The call center number is 1-877-252-9362 or 904-284-7703.

Clay County declared a local state of emergency on Friday. Green Cove Springs City Council also declared a state of emergency on Thursday.

School Superintendent Addison Davis said the district's schools will remain closed through Thursday.  Clay County government offices will also be closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

  Tracking Dorian

Clay Electric advised customers to prepare for outages that could last up to a week. It's put out the call for mutual aid from other utilities for power restoration. 

Sheriff Darryl Daniels has asked for additional swift-water rescue assets. He also said jail inmates will help with sandbagging. 

"If the storm does impact this area, this would be the time to get along with family and neighbors those things that you'd call law enforcement for," Daniels said. "Those are the kind of things that you don't get on the phone and make phone calls about and tie up resources."

The Florida Department of Health will begin contacting people on the county's special needs registry Friday. The county was monitoring the storm and considering a special needs shelter. 

Clay County leaders said they were worried about flooding in low-lying areas, causing problems with access to flooded roads and neighborhoods.

Sandbags are available Monday at the following locations while supplies last:

  • Omega Park - 4317 County Road 218, Middleburg
  • Eagle Harbor Soccer Complex – 4387 Lakeshore Drive, Fleming Island 

Sandbags are in limited supply. There is a limit of 25 bags per family until they are gone. Bring your own shovels.

The Clay County Emergency Operations Center was operating at Level 2, which means it is partially activated. Officials are participating in daily conference calls with the National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service Jacksonville and Florida Division of Emergency Management.

"You can't beat Mother Nature," said Gayward Hendry, vice chairman of the Board of County Commissioners said on Friday. "We are here to soften the impact of Mother Nature. If we can do our part as the citizens of this great county to work together, we can save lives of serious injury and to property."

Clay County Fire Rescue is preparing early by cleaning cots, stacking water and fueling up chainsaws.

No shelters are open at this time. Opening a Clay County Special Needs Shelter will be under consideration based on future track information. General Population Shelters are under consideration at this time.

Residents are encouraged to: 

  • Have their hurricane plan in place
  • Know if they are in a hurricane evacuation zone – Go to alert.claycountygov.com to find your zone.
  • Listen to the advice given by local emergency officials

Middleburg residents watching carefully

People living along Black Creek know the water will rise as it has after many previous storms. During Hurricane Irma two years ago when storm surge combined with 20 inches of rainfall brought the river to 28.5 feet, a crest that broke a record set 1919.

"The last hurricane, it was way up this bank," said James Wall as he returned to a Black Creek boat ramp after surveying the creek Thursday. "A few of my neighbors along the creek got flooded out. A few of the houses still haven't been repaired yet along where I used to live, which is along the creek this way so."

Wall said residents were pulling boats out of the water and strapping them down.

"Saw a few of them, you know, putting shutters up on their windows, just getting things ready," Wall said.

Clay Electric preparing for Hurricane Dorian

Clay Electric is following Hurricane Dorian’s movements and preparing for its possible arrival next week in North Florida. The co-op suggests everyone keep an eye on the projected path throughout the holiday weekend and make their own plans.

Dorian could pose a serious threat to Clay Electric’s 14-county service area. Since Wednesday, the co-op has been reviewing the inventory of materials and bringing them up to necessary levels if widespread power outages occur. Clay Electric’s Fleet Service Department has also ensured the co-op’s gas supply is at adequate levels and all vehicles are fueled. 

If Dorian strikes Clay Electric’s service area, restoration efforts will begin as soon as it is safe to do so, and crews will make every effort to restore power as quickly and safely as possible.

Clay Electric General Manager/CEO Ricky Davis has met with Chief Operating Officer Frank Holmes to begin the process of bringing in outside crews to help Clay restore service if Dorian causes extensive outages in the co-op’s service area. The co-op has also secured hundreds of hotel rooms.

“These steps are to ensure we remain ahead of the curve because this storm’s projected path will affect multiple utilities, causing outside resources to be limited,” Davis said. “With potential statewide damages, and knowing other states may be in Hurricane Dorian’s path, we want to be proactive in securing the necessary resources to restore power to our members as efficiently and safely as possible.”

Clay Electric Chief Public Relations Officer Derick Thomas said the co-op’s members should review their storm plans and ensure they have an adequate supply of drinking water, non-perishable foods, canned goods and necessary medications.

“Hurricanes are a major inconvenience for everyone,” Thomas said. “Our families will be facing this difficult situation with you. We will make it through this together.” 

To help members prepare for a storm, the co-op offers a list of preparations in an annual hurricane guide. It is available at ClayElectric.com and at each of its six district offices. 

Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • If you or a family member depend on power for medical reasons, have somewhere to go that is out of harm’s way, or have a generator handy.
  • If you use a generator, know how to operate it safely, and do not hook it up to your home’s wiring system. It could backfeed into our distribution system and kill or injure personnel making repairs.
  • When venturing outdoors after the storm, be careful of low-hanging or downed power lines, which may still be energized.

Information and updates about Clay Electric’s preparation and response to Hurricane Dorian will be shared on Facebook and ClayElectric.com.

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