JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With Tropical Storm Isaias predicted to bring high winds and rain to greater Jacksonville by Sunday, Mayor Lenny Curry and the city’s Emergency Operations Center director discussed plans Thursday for city preparations and public safety, including how evacuations would be handled during the pandemic.
“We’re all in this together,” Curry to the public during a Zoom news conference.
Social distancing and other issues are included in this year’s plan for evacuations shelters and people are urged to add masks and hand sanitizers to their emergency kits this year.
“We have a great plan and ready to implement that if we need to,” Emergency Operations Director Steve Woodard said.
Woodard added that if the storm keeps to the track the National Hurricane Center is predicting, he does not see evacuations being required for Isaias.
Curry noted that even when evacuations are necessary, historically only 1% of people go to shelters. While everyone News4Jax spoke with at the beaches Thursday said they would evacuate if told during a story, but no one was willing to go to a shelter during a pandemic.
“I feel when you’re around a group of people ... not everyone’s being careful,” resident Margaret said.
Curry also urged people who need financial help preparing either a hurricane kit or a plan to evacuate to ask for help, contacting the Red Cross, United Way or your church. He also urged citizens to look out for each other.
“If you know a neighbor who is struggling, help them out if you can,” Curry said. “This has been a long road, folks -- a long, long few months going back to March with COVID-19 (and) that’s still with us and now hurricane season. And I recognize that people are scared that people are tired and mentally strained and financially strained. Let’s practice safe social distancing wear mask and let’s just take care of one another.
Curry also gave a COVID-19 update and discussing how local hospitals are preparing for a potential storm. He said they are a key part of the city’s emergency plan for storms while they’re already dealing with the pandemic. He said COVID hospitalizations are stable -- not dropping but not spiking. He is cautiously optimistic that things will be getting better but reminded people to continue to practice distancing and wearing masks.
While Florida is closing state-run testing centers at the close of business Thursday, the city’s six testing sites are expected to remain open. For locations, hours and other details, visit coj.net/covidtesting.
Curry said city crews were out clearing drainage areas to allow water to flow and move freely.
“That’s typical protocol when we’re heading into a serious rain or wind event,” he said.
But after News4Jax didn’t find any crews working in Jacksonville’s traditional trouble spots like McCloy’s Creek or in the South Shores neighborhood where the federal government is buying up homes to return to a flood plain, Public Works said crews would begin that work on Friday.
Garbage pickup and other city services were expected to continue throughout the storm.