ST. AUGUSTINE BEACH, Fla. — Starting 6 a.m. Thursday, mandatory evacuations will begin for areas east of the intracoastal and west of State Road 13 including Hastings.
St. Johns County officials are urging those who can leave before Thursday to do so. Wednesday night, the evacuation order was expanded to include all of Zones A and B, including the entire City of St. Augustine and the Town of Hastings.
Phones were ringing off the hook inside the Emergency Operations Center in Wednesday.
On Thursday the EOC will be fully activated as Hurricane Matthew gets closer.
“If they're able and they have their plan and they are able to leave the Coastal areas of St. Johns County we encourage them to leave today,” said EOC Manager Linda Stoughton said Wednesday. “We encourage people to take this seriously this is a risk to St. Johns County please listen to local officials.”
St. Johns County after school activities were canceled Wednesday and there will be no classes on Thursday and Friday.
“You have to think about the safety of 38,000 children and 4,000 employees and we're always going to err on the side of safety,” said Dr. Joseph Joyner, St. Johns County Schools Superintendent.
The county set up five locations where people could get sand bags for free. At the Palm Valley location, crews ran out of bags to hand out and families were asked to bring their own just in case.
“You don't want to panic but you don't want to get caught unprepared,” said Chaz Adams.
Conditions on Wednesday weren’t any better as a nor’easter caused rough surf, erosion in some areas, and brought rain.
That water could saturate the ground even more making it easier for trees to be uprooted, and makes conditions more favorable for flooding as Hurricane Matthew approaches.
"We are moving our population tomorrow and we will have rain like nor'easter conditions so we have to take into consideration things like how much rainfall," said Stoughton.
City leaders on Wednesday night were concerned. When the storm moves through, the First Alert Weather Team said the storm surge could hit three to five feet. Around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, St. Johns County Administrator Michael Wanchick said now is the time to act.
"This storm is not like anything we have seen in recent decades. It's not sure that once you evacuate, you'll be easily able to return immediately, especially those along the water," Wanchick said.
Shelters will open until tomorrow at 6 a.m. If you have a question about the shelter or if you need transportation to get there you’re asked to call the citizen hotline at 904-824-5550.
Cox Media Group