ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Leaders in St. Johns County are keeping a close eye on Tropical Storm Isaias and what the potential rainmaker will mean for flood-prone areas.
News4Jax was told the biggest difference in St. Johns County Emergency Management operations ahead of the storm is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
St. Johns County Emergency Management Interim Director Joe Giammanco said, when it comes to flooding, they are in a slightly better position ahead of the storm because of current weather conditions.
“It’s difficult to understand the area where it could be flooding, how it floods, how do we react to the flooding,” Giammanco said.
Giammanco said the drier weather that the area has had has been a big help for any potential rain or wind that St. Johns County may see, especially for the inland parts of the county likely to flood or the beaches where erosion has been an issue.
“We can handle a little bit more rain right now then if you would say we had a significant rain event then we had the storm,” Giammanco said. “So we are in a better position that way.”
Still, he said, there is a lot to consider ahead of an unpredictable storm, not to mention during a pandemic.
“We bring in all the partners and volunteers and the workers to help go through the storm, as well as the sheltering. If we do evacuate or do have an evacuation order in place and we have to bring people to a shelter, these are some of the things that we have to look at,” Giammanco said.
If shelters are needed, Giammanco said the will follow CDC guidelines at shelters to ensure safety:
- Masks will be required in shelters where social distancing isn’t possible.
- At check-in, there will be temperature checks and questionnaires to identify high-risk or people who previously tested positive for COVID-19.
- 60 square feet of social distancing will be imposed.
- Those who are positive will be isolated.
Similar actions are being taken at the St. Johns County Emergency Operations Center, with social distancing and limiting staff when possible.
“So don’t feel the need to stay home because you’re worried about the pandemic. We’ll do our best to keep you safe,” Giammanco said. “There is no level of service that is going to be reduced because of the amount of people or how we operate within the emergency management center. We have plans in place and have exercise plans, so we are ready to go.”
He said they are looking at all areas and are considering all scenarios.
Emergency Management hopes, within the next 24 hours, it will have a better picture of what’s going on and what resources will have to be deployed.
Meanwhile, residents are encouraged to prepare emergency kits and continue to monitor weather conditions.
Anyone with questions can contact the Emergency Operations Center phone line at 904-824-5550.