St. Johns County Emergency Management official on Irma: ‘We are preparing as if it is coming our way’

Though it’s unclear how Hurricane Irma might affect St. Johns County, neither officials nor residents are content to watch and wait for news about the storm’s path.

 

“We are preparing as if it is coming our way,” said Kelly Wilson, St. Johns County emergency management coordinator. “What we want people to do is the same.”

The hurricane was a Category 5 storm as of 5 p.m. Tuesday and was about 130 miles east of Antigua, according to the National Weather Service. It was moving west at 15 mph with maximum sustained winds of 185 mph.

Officials with county emergency management, and St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach and other agencies have been working together to prepare for an impact.

Some actions were too early to take because the storm is still days away and its path is still uncertain. The county hadn’t announced plans for providing sand and sandbags to residents as of Tuesday afternoon, Wilson said.

St. Augustine and St. Augustine Beach city officials have been getting their equipment and employees ready, including checking generators and gassing up vehicles.

“We’re checking all of our equipment to make sure we have all the materials we need and preparing for an impact. Hopefully, that impact will be minimal. … But based on all the data, we certainly are expecting an impact,” City Manager John Regan said.

If Irma comes this way, St. Augustine Beach officials plan to dump sand at A Street and Ocean Trace Road beach access points to block flooding, City Manager Max Royle said. The city did the same for A Street in preparation for Hurricane Matthew.

St. Johns County residents have also been preparing, some clearing water from shelves, and buying plywood and generators.

“It’s been very hectic,” said Chris Hargus, manager at the St. Augustine Home Depot.

The store sold out of generators Friday. Hargus had a distribution center deliver more generators, but those were gone by Tuesday afternoon.

Bottled water, gas cans, tarps, flashlights, batteries and plywood have also been leaving the shelves, enough so that some items were sold out. He said he expected more supplies to come via truck.

Hargus said people have learned from Hurricane Matthew.

“People are actually preparing a lot sooner this time,” he said.

Aside from having disaster supplies stocked, people should gather insurance polices and other important documents, and have them ready to go, Wilson said. People should also finish any household preparations that can be done at this point and those in an evacuation zone should have a plan in place.

“And make sure if Irma turns our way, they are ready to move,” Wilson said.

Martha Nourse and her husband are still recovering from Matthew’s impact to their Vilano Beach property. Now they’re preparing for Irma.

“We’ve already booked three different hotels … just so that we have an idea of the better places to go depending on the path,” Nourse said. “Then we can cancel them as things get a little bit closer.”

The couple were still in the midst of repairing their home, but the work may have to wait depending on Irma’s path. They have been living in a camper on the property while they make repairs.

Others in the city are still waiting to go home, have only recently gotten back and some are not fully recovered.

But, Nourse said, “We made it through Matthew as a community. And if, God forbid, this thing comes and does extensive damage here, we’ll make it through again.”

FOR INFORMATION

St. Johns County Emergency Management provides updates on the storm, details on evacuation routes and other information on how to prepare. Go to www.SJCemergencymanagement.org or call 824-5550.

St. Augustine residents with special needs or issues they want to make the city aware of can call the Public Works Department at 825-1040, City Manager John Regan said. Also, people can check the city’s website at citystaug.com or the city’s social media for updates.

The city of St. Augustine Beach can be reached at 471-2122 and its website is staugbch.com.

 

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