‘It could possibly be a hybrid of Irma’: Duval County to declare state of emergency, close schools

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry says the city continues to closely monitor Hurricane Ian to determine if evacuations in Zone A are the safest option

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry declared a state of emergency for Duval County and the activation of the Emergency Operations Center, effective at noon Wednesday, as Category 3 Hurricane Ian tracks toward Florida.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry declared a state of emergency for Duval County and the activation of the Emergency Operations Center, effective at noon Wednesday, as Category 3 Hurricane Ian tracks toward Florida.

Curry made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. A state of emergency declaration allows the city to more easily allocate money and resources to protect lives and property.

According to Curry, Jacksonville Beach declared a state of emergency effective Monday night, Neptune Beach will declare a state of emergency at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and Atlantic Beach will declare one at noon Wednesday.

Curry said one shelter will open at 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Legends Center. The city might open more if needed. Those who need special care or assistance need to preregister at JaxReady.com. As for pets, they are accepted with proper paperwork. In Jacksonville, you don’t have to preregister them.

In addition, Curry said, all city offices, except senior centers, will close to the public and nonessential personnel beginning at noon Wednesday. Senior centers will remain open until 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Garbage and recycling will operate on a normal schedule Wednesday. Garbage and recycling collections will then be suspended Thursday and Friday. The city said it will announce makeup days as the situation develops.

Evacuations were not announced during Tuesday's news conference, but Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry later tweeted that they will make a decision by early Wednesday morning.

As for what Jacksonville residents can expect, Curry said Ian “could possibly be a hybrid of Irma,” resulting in a significant risk of major flooding.

“If you lived here through Irma, you’ll recall areas that flooded,” Curry said. “The bottom line is, if you flooded during Irma, you have the potential to flood again, so you need to take today and get prepared.”

The mayor said this applies to all of Duval County but especially to people in downtown Jacksonville, the beaches, San Marco, Riverside, Southampton, Pirates Cove, Ortega, Venetia and the area around TIAA Bank Field.

“These all face significant flooding risks,” he said. “I want to repeat this again, if you live or have property in these areas, please stay vigilant, and if you haven’t already, prepared for the possibility of a major flooding event.”

Evacuations were not announced during Tuesday’s news conference, but Curry later tweeted that they will make a decision by early Wednesday morning.

“As of this time, we are not evacuating people today,” Curry said. “That could change as the storm gets closer. And my advice to people is, if we do a mandatory evacuation, you should evacuate. If we don’t do a mandatory evacuation, we may actually say, if you live in these areas, we suggest that you move and get out of that spot as the storm comes through.”

On Sept. 10, 2017, Category 3 Hurricane Irma crashed ashore near Marco Island, Florida, and tracked north up the state. By the next morning, Jacksonville experienced the worst flooding in the city’s 250-year history. Downtown’s streets became rivers. Homes in San Marco and across the city were flooded. Along both sides of the St. Johns River, businesses were shuttered for months in the aftermath. The storm passed west of Jacksonville by 100 miles early on Sept. 11, 2017, as it was weakening from a Category 2 to a Category 1 hurricane. Through the morning, our river rose to a historical 5.57 feet when a powerful rainband that, combined with the storm’s 86 mph easterly gusts, pushed water into the river basin during high tide.

“The flooding that happened in Irma, the extent of it surprised a lot of people,” Curry said. “But we responded and reacted and we will be better for it this time.”

UNCUT: Press the play button below to watch Tuesday’s entire news conference

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said residents can expect flooding issues when Hurricane Ian reaches Duval County.

2022 HURRICANE SEASON: Tracking the Tropics Interactive Map | Know Your Zone: Your flood risk | Plan & Prepare: Resources to be ready

Patricia Botz is among many people preparing for the worst. She remembers Irma well and how she had to have some elderly family members rescued by boat from her home

“And we had to call her to tell her to put a flag out because the boat was coming to get out of here,” Botz said. “And so she shut all the power off and she got the boat and she left.”

But Brandon Seward, who was preparing his recording studio and home in case of possible flooding, has no idea what to expect, as he recently moved to Jacksonville from California.

“I’ve never been through one, but no, I’m not worried because, you know, we got God,” Seward said. “You know, as long as you got God you’re gonna be fine. Just pray. You know, we all gonna be good. You know, I’m praying for the whole world and make sure we straight.”

DCPS, UNF, JU, FSCJ canceling classes

As for classes, Duval County schools and district offices will be closed on Thursday and Friday. There will also be a special early release schedule on Wednesday.

There will be no sports or extracurricular activities until Oct. 3. Oct. 14, which was a weather day, will now be a class day. It will not be necessary to make up the second day based on the time already planned in the school calendar.

RELATED: Duval, St. Johns among long list of NE Florida school districts, universities closing due to Ian

As for universities and colleges in Jacksonville, the University of North Florida is canceling all classes, including online classes, starting Wednesday through Saturday. University offices will be closed during this time. Activities and events scheduled on campus are also canceled. The University plans to resume normal operations on Sunday.

Jacksonville University is also closing its campus Wednesday through Friday.

All classes and activities on all Florida State College at Jacksonville campuses and centers are canceled Wednesday through Friday, including online classes. In addition, all faculty and administrative offices will also be closed Wednesday through Friday. Employees who are classified as essential personnel will be contacted by their supervisors to discuss work schedules. Classes will resume and all locations will reopen on Saturday, Oct. 1 at regularly scheduled times.

JTA halting operations of St. Johns River Ferry

Meanwhile, Jacksonville Transportation Authority will halt operation of the St. Johns River Ferry following Tuesday’s last trip at approximately 9 p.m.

The ferry will be relocated to a secure location starting a 7 a.m. Wednesday. JTA said it anticipates service restarting by Saturday, pending the outcome of the storm.

All other JTA services are currently operating as normal.

Duval County Courthouse closing

Due to the approach of Hurricane Ian, Chief Judge Mark Mahon has ordered that the Duval County Courthouse be closed beginning on Wednesday at noon. The courthouse will remain closed through Friday.

As a result, the Duval County Clerk of Courts announces that all its offices will be closed from noon Wednesday through the close of business on Friday. This includes both the Duval County Courthouse and the Clerk’s beaches branch at 1543 Atlantic Blvd.

All online foreclosure and tax deed auctions scheduled during the closure have been canceled.

Anyone who received a summons for jury service on Monday, Oct. 3, or Tuesday, Oct. 4, is advised to check on Sunday evening to determine whether their service is needed by calling 904-255-2212 or visiting www2.duvalclerk.com/jurygroups.

LET’S DRIVE JAX! participants who have a scheduled appointment or court appearance affected by this closure will be contacted by the Clerk’s Office with their new schedule once it is determined.

About the Authors:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.

Jacksonville native and proud University of Florida graduate who joined News4JAX in 2016.