Storm-weary St. Johns County residents prepare for nor’easter, Nicole with sandbags

St. Johns County had sandbags available Tuesday. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Ahead of a nor’easter this week and as Tropical Storm Nicole churns closer to Florida, people in St. Johns County are preparing by filling up sandbags.

Starting Tuesday at 10 a.m., the city of St. Augustine began providing free sand and bags at Francis Field, with a limit of 20 bags per person. People must bring shovels and fill their own bags. Vehicles should enter Francis Field from the west off Riberia Street and follow directions. The sand and bags will be available until the supply is depleted or the weather deteriorates.

St. Johns County also started providing sandbags at 10 a.m. Tuesday at three locations throughout the county in preparation for Nicole. The sand and the bags provided are free of charge. Residents must provide their transportation and shovels and are responsible for filling their bags. There is a maximum allocation of 20 bags per person.

The sand and bags are available at the following locations between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday and beginning at 8 a.m. Wednesday until weather permits:

  • Windswept Acres Park - 5335 State Road A1A South
  • North Beach Park - 3721 Coastal Highway
  • Palm Valley - Underneath the Palm Valley Bridge on the east side of the Intracoastal Waterway

RELATED: St. Johns County issues voluntary evacuation for coastal areas in preparation of Nicole | Here’s what we know about school closures for Nicole

Multiple people showed up Tuesday at the sandbag location at North Beach Park in Vilano Beach, where storm surge caused problems weeks ago. Many of those people were from St. Augustine and areas of Vilano Beach that experienced flooding and other wind-related impacts during the nor’easter last year and Ian this year. People are now hoping this storm won’t do significant damage, but it is expected to be a threat to coastal areas.

Nancy and Doug visited the St. Augustine sandbag location at Francis Field to prepare for Nicole. The Vilano Beach couple said they did not flood during Ian, but they’re worried this time around.

“Because there’s no shore and the water’s high,” Nancy said.

The couple went from dealing with winter storms in Chicago to tropical storms and hurricanes in Florida.

“I get nervous,” Nancy said. “I don’t want to be flooded in.”

The couple collected about a dozen sandbags to put by their garage and doors leading into their home. Doug said they were going to spend the rest of the day preparing.

“Moving furniture around, that type of thing,” he said. “I think we’ll be OK. It’s just a good idea to be cautious.”

News4JAX also met HA Smith at the Francis Field sandbag location. Smith said he’s preparing for Nicole by protecting his home in St. Augustine with sandbags — like he’s done with storms in the past.

“Over along the front of my driveway because water comes rushing up the street,” Smith said.

During Ian, Smith said, “the yard flooded about calf deep, but the houses were dry.” Smith said the storm that impacted them the most was Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

“We got about 14 inches inside the garage, but it didn’t touch the house,” Smith said.

Smith said, even during high tide, his street floods, so he filled up his truck with about 20 sandbags.

“This is going to be wind-driven, high tide, so water is going to come up,” he said.

Jim Roche, who lives in Davis Shores, decided to make the drive to the Coastal Highway sandbag location.

Part of the Davis Shores community was flooded during Ian. People lost their belongings, and their homes were damaged.

Roche said he didn’t flood because he put a lot of sandbags outside and taped them all together to create a barrier.

“Fortunately, we were lucky the water level was at a place where the sandbags and taping around the seams helped,” Roche said.

Also at that sandbag location was, David Andress, who lives in Vilano Beach. Andress said part of his property always floods during big storms.

“Flooding in the garage — not the house,” Andress said. “We got flooding from the last one in the garage.”

Andress filled up sandbags to put near his garage, hoping it won’t flood this time.

“Of course everybody gets anxious, but hopefully this one won’t be too bad,” he said.

Nicole could bring along up to 5 feet of storm surge in parts of Florida.

About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.