Major study prompts new evacuation zones in NE Fla.

by: Lorena Incl\u00E1n Updated:


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A study by the Northeast Florida Regional Council is the driving force behind an across the-board update to all evacuation zones in Northeast Florida.

Using new technology leaders were able to better determine flooding patterns caused by storm surge. 

Laura D'Alisera with the Jacksonville Division of Emergency Management urged everyone to know their zones.

"What we want every resident to do today, while the sun is shining, is know your flood zone and learn your evacuation zone," said D'Alisera.

In Duval County, Evacuation Zone F was added. The area covers parts of the Westside including Picketville. The National Weather Service said although Zone F is far inland, it can still see significant freshwater flooding.

Long time Picketville resident Dale Powers said he's seen the problem first hand.

"Sometimes it floods all the roads. You can't get in or out for a couple of hours," said Powers

NWS Warning Coordination Meteorologist Al Sandrik said not everyone is aware how bad the flooding could get.

"Generally anything above a category one because we have such a deeply cut estuary system in Duval County that it can flow inland very far," said Sandrik.

The study also looked at shelter demands. Shelter space has been a challenge for many counties.

Depending on the evacuation scenario, St. Johns County could see a deficit of at least 718 spaces while in Clay County at least 1,600 spaces. Duval County has 27 shelters and can house about 34,000 people of the general public, but it too has a shelter deficit.

“Obviously with larger evacuation zones it creates a larger shelter demand. We are actually working with our school board partners and we are hardening Fleming Island High School,” said Deputy Director of Emergency Management of Clay County John Ward.

Leaders in St. Johns County are also working to close the gap with the addition of new schools.

“We have a new school coming online in the northwest part of the county called Patriot Paks.  It's a K-8 and it will give us 500 additional shelter spaces,” said Linda Stoughton, Emergency Management director of St. Johns County.

The Northeast Florida Regional Evacuation Study was a state funded project through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It cost about $100,000. The next study is due out in about six years.