HURRICANE IRMA PREPS: Sandbag distribution information
Mayor Lenny Curry is urging people who can evacuate to do so in preparation for Hurricane Irma.
Curry announced Wednesday that all Duval County schools will be dismissed early Thursday and closed Friday and Monday.
Curry said a state of emergency for Duval will go into effect at 3 p.m. Wednesday. States of emergency will also go into effect for the beaches communities, Curry said.
Gov. Nathan Deal said on Twitter that a state of emergency has been declared for six coastal counties, including Camden and Glynn.
The declarations give the cities funds should they be needed.
Curry said mandatory evacuations are not in effect for Duval, but people evacuating from South Florida could cause major traffic issues in North Florida.
He said if the storm continues on this track or worsens, we are likely to see mandatory evacuations start on Friday. He is urging visitors and people in zones A or B to prepare and begin to leave now.
"I can't stress the importance of this. This is a unique event with a storm facing the entire state," Curry said. "If you have the ability, please leave."
Sheriff Mike Williams said if a mandatory evacuation does go into effect, first responders may not be able to get to people who decide to stay.
"If it's a mandatory evacuation, we believe strongly that you should leave. If you stay then that's your decision and you're taking that risk," he said.
Officials said for those who cannot leave, shelter locations will be announced Thursday and open Friday.
"This storm is a monster and I recognize that people are running around and feeling some panic. Let's calm down and go about our business or preparing," Curry said.
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