Jacksonville mayor: As conditions deteriorate, shelter in place

Coastal areas expected to get tropical storm winds, storm surge Wednesday

Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams and other officials hold one last briefing before the city begins feeling the effects of Hurricane Dorian.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After days of telling residents to prepare for Hurricane Dorian, Mayor Lenny Curry approached a podium at 6 p.m. Tuesday and said your time is up.

"Conditions will deteriorate tonight into early morning. If you needed to evacuate, you should be gone," Curry said. "Now is the time to shelter in place."

While Hurricane Dorian has lost some strength -- dropping form a monster Category 5 on Sunday to a Category 2 on Tuesday -- and the latest forecast models taking the Florida coast out of the cone, the mandatory evacuation order remains in place and tropical force wind gusts are expected east of the St. Johns River between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Wednesday. There will also be a storm surge on coastal waters.

"Dorian is a strong storm and has the potential to bring strong winds, high waters and significant storm surges. If you live in one of these areas, there may come a time during the storm that if you call 911, they may not be able to get to you. You'll be on your own," Curry said.

There are 500 people checked into the dozen city and Red Cross shelters in the city since Monday (see list below), but space is still available. All JTA services were suspended Tuesday afternoon except shuttles to the evacuation centers and those shuttles will continue through 8 p.m., weather permitting.

Red Cross shelters open in Duval County

  • Abess Park Elementary, 12731 Abess Blvd. (general population)
  • Andrew Robinson Elementary, 101 W. 12th Street (general population)
  • Arlington Middle School, 8141 Lone Star Road (general population)
  • Atlantic Coast High School, 9735 R. G. Skinner Pkwy. (special needs/pet friendly)
  • Chimney Lakes Elementary School, 9353 Staples Mill Dr. (general population/pet friendly)
  • Enterprise Elementary, 8085 Old Middleburg Road (special needs)
  • Landmark Middle School, 101 Kernan Blvd. N. (general population/pet friendly)
  • Mandarin Middle School, 5100 Hood Road (general population/pet friendly)
  • Oceanway Elementary School, 12555 Gillepsie Ave. (general population)
  • Oceanway Middle School, 143 Oceanway Ave. (special needs)
  • The Legends Center (Department of Health - special needs only), 5130 Soutel Dr. (special needs, general population, pet friendly)
  • Twin Lakes Elementary School, 8000 Point Meadows Dr. (general population)

The St. Johns River Ferry was relocated from Mayport Village on Monday and will remain closed until further notice. 

The JTA anticipates resuming normal transit operations on Thursday morning, weather permitting.

RELATED: What to bring to a shelter

"I came here because I don't want to take no chances," Bruce Webb, a longtime Florida resident, said as he checked into the shelter at Andrew Robinson Elementary Tuesday.

Duval County has canceled classes through Thursday, although year-round staff is expected to return to work Thursday. All city and county offices will also be closed through Wednesday, but all employees needed during the emergency are expected to report to work.

Atlantic, Neptune and Jacksonville Beaches closed at midnight Monday and no one is supposed to be on the beach -- although there were crowds at times during the day Tuesday. Public works and other crews with heavy equipment were moving sand, building berms in an attempt to prevent storm surge from coming through beach access paths to reach homes and other structures.

A 10 p.m. until 6 a.m. curfew for the area east of the Intracoastal Waterway began Monday and will condintue until further notice. Alcohol sales will also be banned from 10 a.m. Monday until after the storm passes.

Curry told people not to make unnecessary trips, but stay off the roads.

"Now is not the time for sightseeing," he said.

Sheriff Mike Williams said bridges will close if sustained winds reach 40 mph. News4Jax meteorologist John Gaughan said there's a chance any Jacksonville bridge could experience those conditions during daylight hours Wednesday.

The city has activated its emergency operations center and personnel will monitor the storm’s progress from there. Public works crews are out clearing debris and looking for ways to maximize the city’s drainage capacity before the storm.

The fire department is preparing for high-water rescues.

The Sulzbacher homeless shelter downtown will be evacuated Tuesday morning. All services at the downtown campus are canceled until the evacuation order is lifted for Zone B, including men's emergency housing, health center services and the Urban Rest Stop. Those seeking emergency services and shelter during the hurricane are being accommodated at the City Rescue Mission, which is not under evacuation order at this time.

Sulzbacher Village will remain open and residents will not be evacuated, but all other services at this location are canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Services at the Beaches Health Center location are canceled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Frequently Asked Questions

The city of Jacksonville has published a list of frequently asked questions to streamline communication between authorities and the families and individuals they serve.

Is the emergency operations center activated?

Yes. Mayor Lenny Curry activated the emergency operations center on Aug. 28 to monitor the storm and coordinate storm preparations. City and agency personnel will be on site 24 hours a day.

What does a state of emergency mean?

A state of emergency declaration lets the city more easily allocate dollars and resources to best protect lives and property. A state of emergency has not been declared for Jacksonville at this time.

Does the city provide sandbags to prevent flooding?

Sandbags are not provided by the city because of Jacksonville’s size and population size. Those who need sandbags are asked to visit a hardware store to purchase any supplies they need.

Will the city’s major bridges close in the storm?

The Florida Department of Transportation, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Florida Highway Patrol monitor wind speeds on local bridges. If they reach dangerous speeds, the bridges would close.

What do I do if I find a downed power line?

If you encounter any downed power lines, you’re asked to keep your distance and report the issue to the city by dialing 904-630-2489.

Who do I call if my lights go out?

JEA will work to restore power as it becomes safe to do so. Restoration prioritizes essential resources, but you can report an outage by calling JEA at 904-665-6000 or online at JEA.com.

Source: City of Jacksonville

JEA prepares for Dorian

Based on lessons gleaned from hurricanes Matthew and Irma, JEA crews have been trimming trees throughout the city to head off the problem of falling limbs hitting power lines. The city utility has also shored up sewage controls at wastewater stations by adding more generators.

JEA CEO Aaron Zahn said the utility has updated technology to make sure the restoration process runs smoothly for customers. He urged customers with special needs to register at JEA.com.

Emergency shelter available

The City Rescue Mission's New Life Inn, located at 234 W. State Street, will offer emergency shelter to 100 additional guests including men, women and children beginning on Sunday. Doors open for check-in starting at 1:30 p.m. Those who have checked in at the shelter can stay there all day on Monday or until the worst of the storm has passed through the area.

Guests do not need to worry about bringing blankets, pillows or food as City Rescue Mission will provide those items for all guests.

"We will not turn anyone away," City Rescue Mission's Executive Director Penny Kievet said. "CRM is here to provide a safe and secure shelter for all those needing to take refuge during severe weather conditions." 

JaxPort terminals closed

JaxPort’s terminals have closed to all commercial traffic. The port will remain closed for the duration of Hurricane Dorian and until cleared to reopen by the U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Sector Jacksonville.

The Captain of the Port will set Port Hurricane Condition ZULU for the Port of Jacksonville as of 8 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3. Under Hurricane Condition ZULU, all commercial vessels over 500 gross tons are prohibited from entering or remaining in port. Additionally, all ship-to-shore cargo operations must cease 6 hours prior to the setting of ZULU.

The port’s administrative offices and facilities are closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Carnival Cruise Line is still evaluating plans for the Carnival Ecstasy sailing scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 5. Passengers on that cruise can sign up for text alerts by texting CCL12 to CRUISE (278473). Carnival updates are available here

Football games canceled

Some Duval County Public Schools football games have been canceled, while others were rescheduled:

  • All Thursday junior varsity football games are canceled.
  • Atlantic Coast vs. Ed White is moved to Oct. 4.
  • Baldwin vs. Westside is moved to Sep. 9.
  • Wolfson vs. NFEI is moved to Oct. 4.
  • Sandalwood vs. Ocala is postponed. No date was immediately set.
  • Fletcher vs. Terry Parker is canceled.
  • Mandarin vs. Deland is canceled.
  • First Coast vs. Heritage is canceled.

About the Authors:

Digital election producer in 2022. He created WJXT.com in 1995 and managed The Local Station's website through 2021.

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