Clay County residents should prepare as active hurricane season begins Wednesday

Don Johnson

The hurricane season begins on Wednesday, June 1 and the early predictions say Floridians can expect “above-average” activity.

NOAA forecasters are predicting a likely range of 14 to 21 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which six to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher). This number would include three to six major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70 percent confidence.

If the forecasters are correct, that would make it an above-average season of hurricane activity this year — which would make it the seventh consecutive above-average hurricane season.

Earlier this year, Colorado State University meteorologists released their annual report of predictions for the season, forecasting that Floridians can expect “above average” activity with 19 named storms. The report said nine of the 19 storms are expected to become hurricanes.

New Clay County residents might believe the county’s inland location keeps them immune to a hurricane’s storm surge. But they would be wrong.

John Ward, director of Emergency Management for Clay County, said areas of the county along the St. Johns River can be impacted by storm surge. Hurricane Center officials consider Clay County as one of the few inland counties in Florida to get coastal impacts because of the St. Johns River, Ward said.

The county has not had sustained tropical storm or hurricane winds since Hurricane Dora in September 1964, Ward said.

But Clay County has suffered damage from recent hurricanes, with one of the worst occurring in 2017 from Hurricane Irma.

Irma sent about 850 residents to evacuation shelters, destroying 275 homes and heavily damaging 175. Emergency personnel rescued about 350 people from rooftops and porches.

The storm surge sent record flood waters pouring over the banks of Black Creek destroying homes and docks. Black Creek, the St. Johns River and other county waterways flooded after the county got about 14 inches of rain.

County officials urge residents to be prepared. Though Florida residents usually have several days notice that a storm is approaching, emergency management officials recommend that families have a plan in case of evacuation.

Residents are advised to have fresh water stored in their homes, keep an emergency food supply, candles, flashlights and, if possible, buy a generator for extended power outages. Residents should have the proper plywood, steel, or aluminum panels to board up the windows and doors of their home.

And for Florida newcomers, you should know that these items tend to disappear quickly as a hurricane approaches: gasoline for your vehicle, bottled water, toilet paper, batteries, flashlights, ice chests, charcoal or propane for the grill, plywood for the windows and, of course, generators.

More tips: for residents evacuating, bring cash (ATMs may not be working) and your important documents (insurance policies, lease agreements or proof of home ownership).

Residents should check on the emergency shelters near your home. If you have a pet, then check for pet-friendly shelters.

Storms can be unpredictable (such as Hurricane Charley in 2004) so never accept a predicted storm track as 100 percent accurate.

To get overall information on hurricane preparedness from the county, click here.

County residents are asked to sign up for specific Clay County emergency alerts that are sent to your cell phone or landline phone. The alerts include evacuation notices, flash flood warnings or tornado warnings.

To sign up or update your information, click here.

Residents should know their evacuation zone. This is particularly important for residents who live near the St. Johns River, Black Creek and other county waterways.

To find your evacuation zone by using your address, click here.

There were 21 named hurricanes last year – above the annual average of about 14 since 1991.

Hurricanes names for 2022 are: Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Ian, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Martin, Nicole, Owen, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tobias, Virginie and Walter.

According to NOAA forecasters, the increased activity anticipated this hurricane season is attributed to several climate factors, including the ongoing La Niña that is likely to persist throughout the hurricane season, warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds and an enhanced west African monsoon.

An enhanced west African monsoon supports stronger African Easterly Waves, which seed many of the strongest and longest lived hurricanes during most seasons, NOAA forecasters said.

Hurricane season ends on Nov. 30.

To keep up to date with Clay County news, download the free Newsbreak app from the app store.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=3BX019_0fKXLB7r00
Aerial photo of Hurricane Charley in 2004. Hurricane season starts June 1.Photo courtesy of NOAA

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Tips on how to prepare your house for a hurricane.Graphic courtesy of Clay County Emergency Management.

https://img.particlenews.com/image.php?url=15mUmu_0fKXLB7r00
NOAA forecasters predict above average hurricane activity this year.Graphic courtesy of NOAA

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Veteran journalist with experience in website and newspaper content as an editor and writer. I have worked as a reporter at newspapers and websites in Florida, California and Arkansas. I am a former executive editor at the Tampa Bay Business Journal and worked for 12 years at The Tampa Tribune as an enterprise editor and business editor. At Patch.com, I produced stories for 24 websites in the Tampa Bay area and also edited content for websites in six states.

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