Clay County Emergency Management Director John Ward said that residents along Black Creek need to adhere to the evacuation orders as predictions for flooding from Hurricane Ian increase to approximately 15 inches.
Ward used the brief press conference Wednesday afternoon to provide updates to Clay County residents about the shift in rainfall amount expectations. Originally, the county was expected to see up to 12 inches of rain. That number has now increased to 15 inches, Ward said.
“This unfortunately is going to bring a lot of urban flooding in our areas. This also brings into play both North prong and South prong of Black Creek,” he said.
Both the North and South prongs are expected to reach moderate to major flood states by Friday night, with the south prong at a slightly higher risk.
“I truly want our Black Creek residents to heed the evacuation orders and prepare for what could be flooding into the homes in that area,” he said.
All five shelters are officially open and medically dependent residents are being set up at Lake Asbury Junior High, the county’s special needs shelter, he said.
Two shelters, Orange Park High School and Keystone Heights High School, are pet-friendly. Ward reminded residents that if they are bringing their pets, they must have a cage, food and all shot documentation for their animals.
Residents who do not know if they are in an evacuation zone can visit alert.claycountygov.com or call 877-252-9362 for assistance.
The emergency operations center is currently at level one — a full-scale activation of state emergency response teams. Off-duty crews have been called in to assist with 9-1-1 calls, first responder emergencies and Clay Electric which includes assistance from out-of-state employees.
Evacuation orders are in effect for Zone A along the St. Johns River, Zone B which is inland from the river and near Doctors Lake, Zone C near the body of Black Creek and the North and South prongs of Black Creek.
“The evacuations are highly suggested but have not been mandated,” Clay County Public Information Officer Laura Christmas said. “If your area is issued with a mandatory evacuation order, it means you should leave your home and head somewhere safe as soon as possible.”
Residents will not be forcibly removed from their homes and police will likely not arrest anyone who refuses to leave under a mandatory evacuation order, she said.
“If you ignore a mandatory evacuation order, you should be prepared to be self-sufficient for the first 72 hours after a storm, as the supply of utilities like electricity and water could be damaged,” she said. “Public safety will likely not be able to get to you in the event of an emergency or rescue during the storm.”
Ward, in coordination with the Emergency Management Team, expects that Thursday morning between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. is when Hurricane Ian will begin its impact on Clay County. Residents should expect tropical storm force winds and large amounts of rainfall.