Jacksonville Beach closed until Sunday due to storm

Coast Guard warns people to stay out of water

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - Jacksonville Beach has been closed for all ocean activity until Sunday morning due to Hurricane Sandy as it passes by off the coast, officials said Friday afternoon.

People will not be allowed in the water, though they can be on the beach. Officers will order those in the ocean out.

Neptune and Atlantic beaches will remain open, but officials are discouraging people from going into the water.

As the winds and waves at the beach began picking up, reaching speeds of 40 mph along the coast, the U.S. Coast Guard was warning people to stay out of the water.

IMAGES: Hurricane Sandy rolls up NE Fla. coast

There were a few people watching the waves from a distance Friday afternoon.

"Right now it's a really strong current from north to south," said Lt. Nick Wellington, of Jacksonville Beach Ocean Rescue. "There's big surf, about 6 feet, and with the storm off shore, it's just going to make the situation worse as the weekend progresses."

At the beach, street signs were bending with the wind, which made it difficult for some just to walk.

The Coast Guard said it expected seas to grow anywhere from 10 to 20 feet. Officials said they were also concerned about the rip tides.

"The riptides are strong now. That's why we want to preach to the surfers it may look appealing, but the rip current is too strong and our response will be somewhat delayed," said Lt. Grant Johnson, of the U.S. Coast Guard. "So we want to stress just stay out of the water."

Most people seemed to be taking that advice heading into the weekend.

It was a little disappointing for some people who traveled to the River City for the Florida-Georgia game expecting to spend some time in the water. Bob and Brenda Lance drove from Athens, Ga.

"We came down here yesterday to have a beach day today," Brenda said. "We were going to stay until Monday, but I think the storm's going to change that."

Fans in town for the game, however, seem to be still excited despite the dim prediction. They're determined to make the best of the weekend.

"It's fun just to hang out with friends and go to the beach," University of Georgia student David Youmans said. "It's not all about just the water, it's about the camaraderie and just having a fun time."

"It's really not bothering me that much," University of Florida student Philip Takacs said. "I mean, we have a pool, we have a hot tub in there, so we still can get wet I guess."

Meanwhile, vehicular access to St. Johns County beaches will be restricted through Sunday or until conditions improve, officials said. The beach is open to pedestrians, but beachgoers are strongly encouraged to stay out of the water.

School in St. Johns County was closed Friday for a regularly scheduled teacher planning day.

Copyright 2012 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.