JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – Those charged with keeping people safe from tropical systems at Jacksonville’s beaches are watching Isaias closely, but they are expressing more concern about the strong rip currents and people wanting to get on the sand than from the storm itself.
Isaias was downgraded from a Category 1 hurricane to a tropical storm Saturday evening.
“This is something that can always change. If it does we will respond and notify everybody as soon as possible,” Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham said. “Always be vigilant. It could change any day or any moment. We saw that with (Hurricane) Matthew.”
An hour before shifts ended on Saturday afternoon, Jacksonville lifeguards said they had already rescued five people from the water.
Red flags are on the beaches right now, meaning you can swim. But the strong surf and currents can be very dangerous to swimmers.
“It was pulling me really hard,” said Yasmine Sally, a swimmer.
Even strong swimmers felt the early impacts of Isaias.
“It’s hard,” said Corbette Yarbrough, a swimmer. “I’m lucky I know how to get out of a rip current because I swim at Bolles and I’ve been stuck like twice today.”
The mayors of Jacksonville’s beaches are more concerned about the strong rip currents than the storm itself.
“I do want to emphasize the dangerous serve conditions that might prevail,” said Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser. “We will have lifeguards on duty, but it will be limited and as information is learned about this event we will be certain to share that with everyone.”
Glasser said public works crews are clearing storm drains, pumping retention ponds and mowing ditch lines.
As of Saturday morning, the city had pumped over 1.7 million gallons of water to make room for floodwater.
Mayor Elaine Brown of Neptune Beach urged residents to have their hurricane plan ready for not just Isais, but the season ahead.
“A pandemic and a storm, get prepared,” Brown said. “Put that kit together do what they are warning you. You’ve always said I’m going to be prepared I’m gonna be ready, this is the year to do it. This is the year to make sure that you know where you’re going if you have to evacuate and have everything on hand if you have to really hunker down.”
Latham said electrical crews are on standby in case of power outages.
For now, locals we talked with say they’re just keep a close on the forecast.
“Just the regular stuff, you know, getting your groceries in making sure everything is picked up,” said Jacksonville resident Lashell Hartney. “Just watching the news.”
So far, there are haven’t been any evacuation orders issued for Duval County.
While the predictions are that the effects along Northeast Florida’s coast will be limited, there were many lessons were learned from that storm and Hurricane Irma, which each brought a different kind of misery.
St. Johns County decided to close its beaches effective at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. But Jacksonville’s beaches have not been closed to swimming.
In Atlantic Beach, Monday’s garbage collection service is scheduled to continue, as normal. If that changes, an announcement will be made at http://coab.us/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=874 and www.facebook.com/cityofatlanticbeach. Residents were asked not to trim trees or cut tree branches until the storm has passed.
Duval County Public Schools has canceled all student activities and school meal service Monday because of Isaias.
Typical Friday nightlife in Jacksonville Beach
People were still out and about at restaurants Friday night in Jacksonville Beach, none of whom spoke to News4Jax felt threatened by Mother Nature.
“It’s going to be here and gone in one day,” said R.J. Berger, a Jacksonville Beach resident. “I don’t think there is really much to worry about.”
“If people pray, the storm will go a different way,” said Tatyana Bankratova, another Jax Beach resident. “It’s my belief, so It will not come to this coast.”
Jacob Kennedy, who was visiting from Atlanta, had a different viewpoint.
“These storms are very unpredictable, and they can intensify really quickly,” Kennedy said. “I think people along the coast should make sure they are prepared.”