GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County Emergency Operations Center was bustling Monday morning. Telephones rang. Computer keys clicked. And there was a soft murmur of conversations throughout the …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County Emergency Operations Center was bustling Monday morning. Telephones rang. Computer keys clicked. And there was a soft murmur of conversations throughout the command center.
Although Hurricane Dorian was more than two days – and 302 miles – from Clay County, the men and women entrusted to keep residents informed and safe from the storm were pouring through the simplest of details that can make a difference during a disaster.
Even as Dorian’s path continued to drift further from the Florida coastline, the county’s emergency management wasn’t distracted.
“We’re ramping it up, getting ready for it,” acting EMC Incident Commander John Ward said. “We always work ahead.”
Clay declared a Level 2 alert last week. That put resources and about 100 people in place to get ahead of the storm.
The number doubled Tuesday morning at 8 when the EMC moved to a full Level 1 status.
The county ordered mandatory evacuations for Zones A and B, low-lying areas and manufactured homes. The zones primarily included Reynolds Industrial Park and Green Cove Springs Marina, homes between U.S. Highway 17 and the St. Johns River and the southern shore of Doctors Inlet. Adding to the concerns was King Tide, the highest high-tides of the year, that lasted until Wednesday.
Residents were asked to leave by 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
Five shelters opened on Tuesday, including one at Lake Asbury Junior High in Green Cove Springs for people with special needs. Residents also could find shelter at Clay High, Orange Park High, Keystone Heights Junior/Senior High and Wilkinson Elementary.
At the EOC, opening shelters was just one part of the preparation.
“We are planning for tropical storm-force winds,” Ward said on Monday. “There will be high waves in the (St. Johns) River. Of course, we’ve had to keep our eyes on the storm because any movement west would have a big impact on us.”
Like everyone else in the path of the destructive storm, Clay County prepared for the worse and hoped for the best.
By Tuesday, Dorian’s eye was forecasted to be about 85 miles east of the coastline. Winds were expected to reach 30 mph with as much as five inches of rain.
Clay County still didn’t take any chances.
Workers were prepared to deal with a variety of emergency issues, including fuel, health and medical, supplies, transportation, law enforcement, planning, traffic, animal control, search and rescue and costs.
The call center number is (877) 252-9362 or (904) 284-7703.
The fickle nature of Dorian led to considerable frustration for everyone, Ward said.
“At first, we were looking at a direct impact storm,” he said. “Then it was come from Central Florida, which would have led to considerable flooding. Now it looks like it’s going to off the coast.
“It’s been a real challenge not to burn out the staff. We’ve been here for days. The model kept changing and it’s really been difficult. Although we’ve had three variations, we still have to be ready.”
The command center was scheduled to remain open 24 hours a day until Dorian is out of range.