NASSAU COUNTY, Fla. – A state of emergency is in effect for Nassau County ahead of Isaias, and the county said Friday a special needs shelter will be on standby in case of power outages.
No evacuations are planned for the county, and any shelters throughout the hurricane season are meant to be a last resort because of COVID-19.
On Saturday, boaters were making preparations for the storm, adding extra lines and bumpers.
“Usually I just put out three or four dock lines,” said New Orleans resident Cedric Walker. “I’m putting out eight. Usually I put out only a couple fenders. I’m putting out 4.”
Placing extra ties and bumpers can be time consuming, but the boat owners I spoke with say they would rather be safe than sorry.
“Yeah, my boat went through Irma at the dock and it got a little bit of rash,” said Andrew Burr, a Fernandina Beach resident. I’m going to have to spend a day undoing it, but we like Fernandina Beach and hopefully everything will reopen on Tuesday.”
Walker, who is visiting Jacksonville from New Orleans, moved his boat to the Fernandina Harbor marina because of the docks. The Fernandina Harbor marina was damaged during Hurricane Matthew in 2016 and fully reopened in January this year.
“I picked this marina because the docks were built just a year ago and they are very, very strong,” he said. “One of the strongest marinas in the area.”
On top of bringing his boat to the marina Walker says he has added extra ties and bumpers as well.
“I’m taking down any loose cloth, all the antenna are lowered, anything that could be picked up by the wind has been tied down so it doesn’t fly off onto someone else’s boat,” Walker said. “I hope the other boat owners do the same thing for me.”
Nassau County officials want people to have a plan in place that puts other options first, such as staying with a friend or a relative or booking a hotel if they find the means because even if Isaias doesn’t require the shelters to open this go round, for any future storms they want to prevent a lot of people from congregating in one place.
The city of Fernandina Beach is warning people to be careful of deadly rip currents and rough surf this weekend.
The city says Ocean Rescue will watch conditions and then decide whether to close beaches to swimming.
Even though Nassau County is included in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ state of emergency, County Director of Emergency Management Greg Foster said he is hopeful Nassau’s impacts will be minimal.
“Our primary message out to the citizens is to monitor the status of the storm to continue to keep apprised of what the storm is doing and what the current track is,” Foster said.
The standby shelter at Hilliard Middle/Senior High school that will be available would screen people for COVID-19, and you’d have to wear a mask inside.
Everyone would have to social distance and bring their own bedding and personal necessities.
“We’re going to have an isolation area within the shelter that we’re going to be able to isolate anyone who believes they may have been exposed or are showing signs or come and tell us if they are COVID-19 positive,” Foster said. “We have isolation areas and we have a fallback isolation shelter if need be.”
Nassau County residents who anticipate needing evacuation assistance or medical accommodations in a public emergency shelter should register on Florida’s Special Needs Registry each hurricane season at https://snr.flhealthresponse.com/.
Foster said he understands people may be disaster-fatigued, but he urges residents to take hurricane season seriously.
The Emergency Operations Center will provide situational updates on the on the website www.OneNassau.com and social media (NassauEM is on Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor) at 9 a.m. and again at 3 .p.m both Saturday and Sunday.
In addition to monitoring the tropics, the county is constantly keeping track of COVID-19.
The Board of County Commissioners on Friday extended the requirement for face coverings in public spaces for another 30 days.
The director of the Nassau County Department of Health told the board before masks were mandatory, positive cases among those tested were close to 10%.
She said now, cases are closer to 8% and pointed to the mask mandate for the change.