“I’m asking everyone to have a plan” Local cities prepare ahead of Elsa’s impacts

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — On Tuesday afternoon, the city of Jacksonville, along with other local agencies, held a news conference to explain how they will work together to keep neighbors safe.

Action News Jax’s Courtney Cole also spoke to Emergency Management in St. Johns County and Clay County. Officials explained how they’re hoping for the best and preparing for whatever may come our way.

“While we are no stranger to these conditions, it is important that everyone is prepared,” Mayor Lenny Curry urged during a Tropical Storm Elsa update on Tuesday afternoon.

Curry is asking everyone to have a plan, know the evacuation zone and have a storm kit ready to go.

“At this time, we don’t expect to open storm shelters or order any evacuations. Out of an abundance of caution, we’re going to close all city operate it summer camps and pools tomorrow only,” Curry said.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams also said he does not anticipate closing the bridges.

Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser said lifeguards will be fully staffed, although she is strongly encouraging people to stay out of the water.  Glasser also said city services will be up and running in the Beaches Community.

“One thing I want to reiterate to our folks is we are so saturated right now. We don’t even need very strong winds before we’re going to start tipping over trees, power outages, so our teams are preparing that,” said John Ward, the director of Clay County Emergency Management.

Ward said officials are on tropical storm watch throughout the day. Clay County Sheriff Michelle Cook is asking people to stay off the roads and plans to bring in extra staff on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

“We started off last week, meeting with all of our partners,” said Joseph Giammanco, the St. Johns County Emergency Management director.

He said they are keeping their eye on areas that flood regularly.

“The city [of St. Augustine] floods pretty regularly on events like this ... Davis Shores. We have some vulnerable areas along the coast that we have to look at,” Giammanco said.

Jay Stowe, JEA’s CEO, said they are discontinuing the cutoff of utilities for non-payments through Thursday.

A big part of preparing for Elsa is getting storm drains cleared, especially in flood-prone areas like the 10th and Liberty streets in Springfield.

When Cole first showed you the four storm drains at the intersection of 10th and Liberty streets on Monday, they were full of debris. The city of Jacksonville’s Public Works crews have since come to clear them out.

“Every year, we’re doing this! We’re out here!” said Joey.

She told Cole she’s lived in a home on Walnut Street in Springfield her whole life and that the flooding has always been bad.

“It is going to take some time to get the systems cleaned out, properly done. And I understand there’s a lot, but we’re sinking! And we’ve been thinking for years! And I’d say it’s about a six- to seven-block radius,” she said.

After experiencing flooding on Sunday, Joey said she and her son, Damian, had to dig up debris yesterday and today — something Curry advises against.

“I would not suggest any citizens get involved in any work that is the work of Public Works,” Curry said.

But then this happened: Public Works crews showed up to clear the drainage.

“I was shocked that they were out here so quick! Because, like I said, we’ve been arguing for years to get them to come out here!” said Joey.

Curry said there is a list of flood-prone areas they are focused on. Joey said she’s hoping for a more long-term solution in the near future.

“Yeah, they’ve got a great thing going on here with Historic Springfield. ... Yeah, they’re going to make it beautiful again ... but we can’t do that if you’re going to wash it all the way in the floods,” Joey said.

If you are having a problem with debris in your neighborhood, Curry is asking that you call 6-3-0 C-I-T-Y.