‘It is not over yet’: Clay County officials warn of storm surge, strong winds as Ian heads to Atlantic

Black Creek not expected to overflow banks despite heavy rains from Ian

On the drive to Doctors Lake Marina, the News4JAX team drove through the Eagle Harbor neighborhood in Fleming Island and witnessed debris in the roadway.

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – In an afternoon update, Emergency Management Director John Ward said despite the storm heading toward the Atlantic Ocean, Clay County residents can expect to feel Ian’s effects later Thursday night.

Clay remains under a tropical storm warning. The county could receive a 3-foot storm surge later Thursday and into Friday. Around 4 a.m. Friday, high tide arrives, which may lead to issues that impact docks, boathouse and bulkheads along the St. Johns River, Doctors Lake and Black Creek.

Residents could also potentially experience tropical storm winds and gusts, which can bring down trees, powerlines and poles.

“I want to warn our community. It is not over yet,” Ward said in the afternoon news conference.

Ward also encouraged residents to stay inside and continue to monitor the storm’s effect from their homes.

Fallen tree on the drive to Doctors Lake Marina (WJXT)

Thursday Morning Update

Clay County Emergency Management held a news conference Thursday morning to give updates on Ian’s impacts.

Clay County officials said that the earlier effects witnessed on Wednesday night were not due to Ian, instead, residents were experiencing the impact of a nor’easter.

Officials urged residents that Tropical Storm Ian’s impact will take place Thursday into Friday morning. However, the good news is that the rainfall has significantly decreased from the earlier forecast at the beginning of the week. It was originally projected that Clay County would receive potentially 15-20 inches of rainfall, but now officials are saying that 3-5 inches of rainfall can be expected.

Officials also said they are not concerned about Black Creek flooding, however, residents can expect to see a surge up the St. Johns River into Doctors Lake and into the main body of Black Creek.

Officials said water could come above the docks and seawalls and a lot of wave action will happen through Thursday night into Friday morning.

Despite the changes in impact expectation, Clay County is still under a tropical storm warning. Shelters will remain open through Thursday night and evacuation orders are still in place.

Officials are continuing to monitor the storm’s impact as it makes its way north. They offered prayers to authorities working in Southwest Florida. Florida teams and out-of-state teams are headed there to assist crews. The Clay County Sheriff’s Office is sending a team to help out with the catastrophic damages and officials are working with regional partners to send fire and rescue crews to assist as well, although they are only sending a limited amount of crews to be cautious and prepared for what Clay County may need.

They also encouraged residents not to drive around to look at the damage and be cautious if they have to leave because there are power lines and debris on the roads.

Black Creek not expected to overflow

As News4JAX visited multiple areas in Clay County Thursday morning to see the effects of Ian, there was good news for Clay County residents in the Black Creek area.

The new hydrology forecast Thursday morning showed a much lower risk for any big rise on Black Creek. The creek is forecast to crest Friday night at 13.5 feet, and the flood stage is 16 feet.

The Weather Authority Meteorologist Mark Collins said there will be fast-flowing water in the creek, but that water will stay within the banks of the creek.

Our crew did witness the early stages of high water in Clay County with water moving past the boat ramp into the parking lot at Doctors Lake Marina with the help of the strong winds.

On the drive to Doctors Lake Marina, the News4JAX team drove through the Eagle Harbor neighborhood in Fleming Island and witnessed debris in the roadway and a fallen tree in a home’s yard. The tree caused damage to a fence but did not hit the home.

Chris Hedden has his pontoon boat ready to sail if things get bad. That’s what the Black Creek local had to do five years ago when Hurricane Irma brought flood waters to his roof.

“[I learned my lesson] when I didn’t take Irma seriously. Little floods don’t bother you but when it goes into the ceiling, it bothers you. We drove a boat almost up on the roof,” Hedden said.

Throughout Clay County residents are geared up as they saw fit. Eddie Jain operates Yume Fusion Sushi & Grill in Middleburg and said he had some flooding inside in 2017. But he feels confident Ian won’t be that bad.

The County Emergency Operations Center warned residents that the ground in Clay County is already heavily saturated and flooding may come quickly.

“We’re so saturated now with the past few weeks on rainfall. Ponds are full. Ditches are full. So it’s really where we’ve seen 2 or 3 inches of water in roadways if we get that 8 to 12 inches of rain that’s obviously going to be compounded significantly,” Ward said.

The phone number to call for non-emergency questions in Clay County is 877-252-9362.

What else residents should know:

  • Curbside collection will not occur Thursday and Friday and Waste Management will begin normal routes on Monday.
  • All solid waste facilities including Rosemary Hill will be closed Thursday and Friday and are planned to reopen Saturday, weather permitting.
  • Residents can bring residential waste to any solid waste facilities when they reopen on Saturday. (Visit garbage and recycling on the website for those locations)

The Rosemary Hill Solid Waste Management Facility will be accepting residential yard waste at no charge from Saturday through Oct. 11, 2022, during normal operating hours of Monday through Saturday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Residents must provide proof of residency with a driver’s license, lease, or utility bill. Commercial waste will be charged at normal rates. All yard waste transported in any type of commercial vehicle will be considered commercial.


About the Authors:

Specializes in Clay County issues, general assignment reporting and stories off the beaten path and anchors weekend evening newscasts.

Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.