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Jacksonville mayor declares state of emergency as Hurricane Irma continues on path

September 6, 2017 in Hot Business Tips, In the news, Members Only by admin

Jacksonville mayor declares state of emergency as Hurricane Irma continues on path

Bridge tenders climb down the Main Street Bridge as workers prepare to remove scaffolding in preparation for Hurricane Irma Wednesday, September 6, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Will Dickey/Florida Times-Union)

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry fields questions from the media next to part of the 120,000 liters of water stored for emergencies inside the city’s emergency supply warehouse Wednesday. (Bob Self/Florida Times-Union)

Firefighters (left) Zak Washington and Landon Simmons attach protective window coverings on the upper floor windows of Fire Station 4 in LaVilla Wednesday afternoon in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. (Bob Self/Florida Times-Union)

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry declared a state of emergency Wednesday starting at 3 p.m. as Hurricane Irma pounded the Caribbean and continued to move toward the United States.

“I would prepare, and I would begin to leave,” Curry said.

During an afternoon briefing with the National Weather Service, Curry said he was told by advisers that Jacksonville could experience a heavy traffic problem late in the week and into the weekend due to people travelling north through the area to avoid the storm. He said residents could end up sitting in traffic if they wait to leave until official evacuation orders are given.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said the best option for drivers leaving the area is to head north on Interstate 95 because Interstate 75 is the only other main artery out of the state, and both will be clogged with evacuees. Because of that, Interstate 10 will probably see traffic backups, but if evacuation plans are to the west the highway will serve as a satisfactory exit.

Curry said people need to know which evacuation zone they are in and can find out by going to the website People can also reach various city departments by dialing (904) 630-2489.

The city will close offices for non-essential employees Friday and the status of Monday operations will be determined depending on the path of the storm, Curry said. He confirmed trash pickup will continue Friday to alleviate the amount of debris on the roads.

All public schools in the county will have early dismissals Thursday and will be closed Friday through Monday, according to the Duval County School System. St. Johns County is closing all public schools Friday and will determine when to open again depending on the storm.

Schools in Clay and Nassau counties are asking students to monitor social media for closures.

Curry said it’s still far too soon to determine how much of an impact Irma will have on Northeast Florida, but it’s time to start preparing just in case the aftermath is devastating. Another storm, Hurricane Jose, is growing right behind Irma, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Irma, a Category 5 storm, was about 40 miles northwest of St. Thomas and 55 miles east-northeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico as of 5 p.m. Wednesday, according to the Hurricane Center. It had maximum sustained winds of 185 mph and was moving west-northwest at 16 mph.

Live blog: Tracking Hurricane Irma

Latest Hurricane Irma tracking map

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Jose is gaining momentum with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph and was last located about 1,040 miles east of the Lesser Antilles as of 5 p.m., according to the Hurricane Center. It was moving west-northwest at 16 mph.

Curry led a tour of the city’s emergency supply warehouse Wednesday morning to show some of the items the city has ready in case of a disaster. He said he wanted to show the citizens that the city is prepared for the storm as they are asking residents to do the same.

The warehouse contains 120,000 liters of bottled water and the supplies needed to open 12 emergency shelters Friday. There are portable generators, large fans, emergency vehicles and non-perishable meals as well as other items at the warehouse. The locations of the shelters will be announced once they are all confirmed.

The City Rescue Mission currently provides shelter for 250 people and will make accomodations for anout 100 at the New Life Inn, 234 W. State St. They plan to open their doors at noon on Friday if necessary.

Curry explained JEA customers can take advantage of their tap water by bottling it ahead of the storm. He said the water is still clean to drink, and residents should fill any containers that can make it through the storm.

Slideshow: Jacksonville prepares for Irma

County commissioners declared a state of emergency in St. Johns County during their meeting Tuesday.

The county administration and emergency staff are monitoring the storm and encourage residents to get information on the website or by calling (904) 824-5550.

St. Johns County is providing free sandbags, but residents must provide their own shovels and transportation. They need to fill the bags on their own, according to St. Johns County Emergency Management.

There is a limit of 20 bags per person at the following six locations: Windswept Acres Park, 5335 Florida A1A South; Sims Pit, 536 S. Holmes Blvd.; Hastings Town Hall, 6195 S. Main St.; Mills Field, 1805 Racetrack Rd.; North Beach Park, 3721 Coastal Hwy.; and under the Palm Valley bridge east of the Intracoastal Waterway.

Clay County is also monitoring the storm closely and will start passing out sandbags Thursday at the following locations: Middleburg Fire Station, 4003 Everett Ave.; Fleming Island Fire Station, 5995 Pine Ave.; Orange Park Fire Station, 2025 Smith St.; Green Cove Springs Public Works Yard, 900 Gum St. and Keystone Heights City Hall, 555 S. Lawrence Blvd.

Residents in Clay County are encouraged to be aware of their evacuation zones and can monitor the situation at the website People who live in mobile homes are automatically classified as living in an evacuation zone.

Meanwhile, residents are filling up their tanks and carts at gas stations, grocery and home improvement stores throughout Northeast Florida.

There have been scattered reports of gas stations running out of everything but premium gas.

City Councilman Reggie Gaffney toured the city’s supply warehouse along with the mayor Wednesday morning and said he was encouraged by the amount of water the city has on hand. Gaffney said the people in his district on the Northside were scrambling to find water Tuesday, and he hopes stores will begin restocking their shelves soon.

Joe Caldwell, manager of corporate communications at Southeastern Grocers, said that bottled water has been the most in-demand item at Winn-Dixie and Harveys stores throughout the state.

“We have trucks out on the road, restocking the stores as fast as we can,” he said. “The emphasis had been on South and Central Florida, but now the focus is shifting to North Florida. We’re able to pull trucks from the Tampa area and other states.”

He said that many stores aren’t even bothering to restock the shelves with new shipments. Instead, full pallets of bottled water are being placed at the front of stores.

The area military bases are waiting to see if the storm turns toward Jacksonville before sending aircraft elsewhere, but Mayport Naval Station isn’t wasting any time getting ships to safety.

Ships started departing for safe waters Tuesday and will continue through Thursday. The USS Shamal, USS The Sullivans and USCG Tahoma headed to sea Wednesday.

The USS Philippine Sea, USS Farragut, USS Milwaukee, USS Lassen and USS Tornado are schedule to depart Thursday.

Organizers are postponing and and canceling events around the area as the storm moves closer to Florida.

The 15th Annual Ponte Vedra Auto Show was supposed to take place Sunday at the Nocatee Town Center, but it has been rescheduled for Sept. 24 at the same location. The event will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“It is the prudent thing to do,” said Isabelle Rodriguez, president and CEO of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce. “We are acutely aware of the effect a hurricane can have on a community, and while we are hoping for the best we take seriously the consequences this imposing storm may inflict and we are planning accordingly.”

Several events are being canceled or postponed in the area due to the storm.

Thursday night’s Modest Mouse concert at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre has been canceled, and the Blackberry Smoke and Chris Robinson Brotherhood concert set for Friday at the same venue has been postponed. The Bryan Adams concert scheduled for Saturday at Daily’s Place has been postponed.

The weekly Riverside Arts Market held under the Fuller Warren Bridge was also canceled this week.

Area school systems are monitoring the storm and are asking parents to check social media for updates on when schools will reopen again.

The University of North Florida, Jacksonville University, Florida State College at Jacksonville and Florida Coastal School of Law announced they will be closed from Friday to Tuesday. St. Johns River State College will close Friday and will stay closed until further notice.

The Clay County School Board has officially canceled Thursday’s meeting. They plan to hold two meetings in September to make up for the canceled meeting.

All state courts will be closed Friday, and the Florida Commission on Ethics canceled their Friday meeting but will cover items on the agenda at their meeting Oct. 20.

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