JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and Steve Woodard, director of the city’s Emergency Preparedness Division, said during a virtual news conference Tuesday that they are monitoring a disturbance that the National Hurricane Center said is forecast to become a tropical storm before reaching the Leeward Islands.
“Look, we’re prepared. I’ve said it before, we’ve been through multiple storms, hurricanes together the five years that I’ve been in office. We practice for crisis management with our Emergency Operations Center. They live this every day,” Curry said. “They’ve navigated [the pandemic] successfully, are navigating it, getting us the right information we need, helping in hospitals with PPE, keeping track what’s happening and are going to continue to do, as it relates to hurricane season, what we’ve done in previous years.”
Woodard said they haven’t tapped into plans to contemplate transit and what that would mean for shelters but they’re working with the school board, health department and the Red Cross to make sure the city would be able to accommodate anyone who needs to go to a shelter.
“That will likely require us to open more shelters, but we have that excess capacity. Generally, we open anywhere from eight to 12 shelters. We have 29 shelters in our inventory, so we have good capacity. Also, [we’re] looking at doing screening of people who would be coming to a shelter,” Woodard said. “But we’ve also found that during COVID we can do a lot of our operations virtually, so we’re also going to include as part of our planning.”
He also said there would be plans in place for COVID-19 patients.
“For the sheltering this year, if people do come to the shelter who are COVID positive, our plan is to isolate those people. Depending on the numbers, if we have to open specific shelters just for COVID patients, we’ll do that,” Woodard said. “We have a good plan. And as we close watch these numbers, I work with the hospitals and the nursing homes. ... We make sure that everyone is taken care of.”
There’s still a lot of uncertainty associated with the system, and Woodard said they will be watching it for the next several days.
Curry reminded residents to be prepared regardless of what happens with this system.
“I think that my sense is given this once in a lifetime thing we’ve been going through with this pandemic, as we’ve entered hurricane season, there’s been so much attention, rightly so, around COVID-19 that maybe people have not paid as much attention to hurricane prep,” he said. “So to remind people, this is a good time to get your kids ready, be prepared for a storm. No reason to react right now. But going into hurricane season, we should all be prepared, even when there’s no storm out there.”
The Weather Authority said the system is not expected to become a hurricane, but it does look like rain and tropical-storm-force winds are possible along its path toward Florida by the weekend.