ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – With Isaias expected to brush or skirt the Northeast Florida coastline, St. Johns County officials are taking steps to prepare for any potential impacts.
County commissioners in a special meeting Saturday morning unanimously approved a state of emergency for the county ahead of the storm.
The declaration allows the county to access resources and assistance to prepare for an emergency weather event.
St. Johns County Administration and Emergency Management participated in briefings with the National Hurricane Center and the Florida Department of Emergency Management on Sunday that indicated Tropical Storm Isaias became more disorganized overnight and therefore, the threat level to St. Johns County has been downgraded. The county remains under a tropical storm warning for coastal St. Johns County and a coastal flood advisory with the potential for storm surge, high winds and coastal flooding being the current primary concerns.
On Friday, the county’s Emergency Operations Center announced it was at a partial activation.
“It basically means a skeleton crew,” said Michael Ryan, a spokesperson. “The emergency management is there, the administration is there. We’ll have a representative from the cities and St. Augustine Fire Rescue.”
In the era of COVID-19, Ryan said emergency staff are taking special measures.
“We are bringing in fewer people and doing a lot more stuff remote,” he said.
The Emergency Operations Center will remain open overnight on Sunday and throughout Monday for emergency response as necessary. In addition, the Emergency Operations Center Hotline -- 904-824-5550 -- will remain available to the public through midnight on Sunday and will resume operations at 6 a.m. on Monday.
Officials recommended finalizing preparations and ensuring supply kits are stocked.
Residents may find local Tropical Storm Isaias information on the County’s website at www.sjcfl.us/HurricaneIsaias. Weather updates related to Tropical Storm Isaias may be found at www.weather.gov/jax or www.nhc.noaa.gov.
Beaches closed to swimming Sunday
Swimming at all St. Johns County beaches, including Fort Matanzas National Monument beaches, is prohibited beginning at 12:01 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 2.
The storm is anticipated to produce potentially dangerous rip currents and extremely high tides. Lifeguards had to perform 12 rescues Saturday.
Swimming will remain prohibited until further notice, as indicated by double red flags posted along the beaches.
St. Augustine beachgoers were enjoying the large waves on Saturday, hours before the midnight ban of swimming at the beach.
On Sunday, the St. Johns County Sheriffs Office was out at Mickler’s Landing. A deputy told News4Jax the Sheriff’s Office’s marine rescue unit and lifeguards will be monitoring throughout the day. Beachgoers were being told they are allowed to walk and run but not swim.
“I’m not one to wander out into the water. I know they’ve said no swim. Even if it was (allowed), I wouldn’t be out there swimming right now,” said Lori Hackney, who lives in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Double red flags, meaning no swimming, were out Sunday at Crescent Beach, which saw high surf that breached A1A during Hurricane Dorian last year.
“We’ve heard that in the area, in the past couple hurricanes, that the water did breach the ramp here and they also got it from the Intracoastal side, as well in this area in general,” said Crescent Beach resident Dawn Kemp. “We just moved here. We went and got the sandbags because we figured, if nothing else, it’s good to be prepared for the next storm, but we’re really not concerned for this one.”
Residents and visitors are encouraged to avoid the beaches until conditions improve.
St. Johns County provided free sandbags at six locations throughout the county. The sand and the bags were provided free of charge to residents. Residents had to provide their own transportation and shovels and were be responsible for filling their own bags.
There was a maximum allocation of 20 bags per person.
“It’s early on in the season, and what the heck, I can always use a few extra sandbags,” said St. Johns County resident Donny Hedstrom, who told News4Jax he had to evacuate in previous hurricanes. “For the past two hurricanes, I had 14 inches of water inside my house. So this is just the beginning of the season, so it’s always good to prepare.”
Sandbag distribution Sunday was be from 9 a.m. to noon.
- Windswept Acres Park - 5335 SR A1A South.
- Sims Pit - 536 S. Holmes Boulevard.
- Hastings Community Center - 6195 S. Main Street, behind the building.
- Mills Field - 1805 Race Track Road, in the overflow parking area.
- Palm Valley - Under the Palm Valley Bridge on the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway.
- North Beach Park - 3721 Coastal Highway (at the walkover)
Sandbags may also be purchased from local hardware and home improvement stores.
For additional information, please call 904-824-5550.
COVID-19 testing site closed
The COVID-19 drive-thru testing site at Flagler Hospital will be closed Monday, Aug. 3, due to potential impacts from Isaias.
Flagler Hospital anticipates re-opening the site on Tuesday, weather permitting.
If Isaias stays on its current projected path, testing will remain available on Monday at the Flagler Hospital outpatient laboratories, with a doctor’s order. CareFast+ urgent care locations will also remain open.
For more information, call 904-824-5550.
Beach driving restricted
Because of the chance for extreme high tides and unpredictable ocean conditions, beach driving on all St. Johns County beaches will be restricted beginning at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Pedestrian access to the beach will remain available at off-beach parks and beach walkovers.
Dangerous surf conditions and rip current activity are expected, officials said.
Beach visitors are encouraged to avoid ocean swimming until conditions improve.
Beach driving access will be reinstated when conditions allow.
For more information regarding Isaias, please call 904-824-5550.
Trash, recycling collections not impacted
St. Johns County garbage, yard debris and recycling collections will not be impacted by Tropical Storm Isaias and will proceed as scheduled during the week of Aug. 3.
Residents are asked to please continue following regular schedules on standard collection days.
For more information regarding St. Johns County garbage, yard debris and recycling collections, call 904-827-6980.
St Johns County EMA says one to two feet of storm surge and one to four inches of rain is projected for Monday.
Resident Gus George said maintaining his lawn in this low lying flood-prone neighborhood in Vilano Beach can be a challenge.
“Yeah, the grass is doing great right now, but when the saltwater comes in, which it does sometimes off the ocean down the street into the intercostal, it kills the grass,” said George.
Flooding and merging water happens often in this zone of St Johns County.
“Especially the street and the ditches, you know, everything just fills up,” said George.
Tropical storm Isaias has pulled off the coast, but the county EMA said it has increased its intensity.
“We considered it a smaller one. It wasn’t really a threat to us. We didn’t get worried about this one,” said George.
EMA says the area is now expected to see one to two feet of storm surge and one to four inches of rain.
The Anastasia State Park campground is closed.
Seventh Judicial Circuit Court operations, other than first appearances, are suspended Monday.
The St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller’s Office will be closed for in-person services on Monday.