Clay County prepares for hurricane season under new Emergency Management leadership

Zoey Fields

Clay County Emergency Management Deputy Director Mike Ladd will assume the role of “Acting Director” this hurricane season. This decision comes after the announcement of the current director’s retirement.

Last year, more than 2,000 Clay County residents experienced power outages caused by Hurricane Ian. Hurricane Nicole, which made landfall in Clay County as a tropical storm, caused severe flooding in Black Creek, Doctors Inlet and areas along the St. Johns River.

“The big thing about hurricane season is preparation,” Ladd said. “There are so many things that I would tell people to do to remain resilient including having a plan, a general idea of where you are going to go, making hurricane packs, investing in a couple extra pallets of water, testing your generator and checking the Clay County website which has a treasure trove of preparedness options.”

Clay County residents can access evacuation routes, shelter information, tips for creating disaster kits and special needs information by visiting
Mike Ladd served as emergency management's deputy director the past two hurricane seasons; this year he will serve as acting director.Photo byClay County Emergency Management

Ladd served as the emergency management deputy director during the 2021 and 2022 hurricane seasons. He said the role as acting director is not very different from his previous deputy position, noting that a deputy director has to be prepared to step in at any given time.

“I’ve had at least two ‘good’ hurricane seasons,” Ladd said, laughing and suggesting “good” might not be the right word. “I’ve seen some examples of pretty big storms such as Irma, Michael and Ian and I have had the opportunity to work with our amazing partners who respond quickly and efficiently to all threats.”

In an Emergency Management Facebook post, former director John Ward told Clay County residents that the upcoming hurricane season has predicted approximately 13 storms, six named hurricanes and potentially two major hurricanes. Ward announced his retirement Tuesday which goes into effect July 1, a county spokeswoman said.

When asked about the flood risks in Black Creek, St. Johns River and Doctors Inlet, Ladd said that predictions are typically handled by higher-ups at the National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“We take a look at imperial data and we can make some assumptions based on prong behavioral characteristics, if you will, but that is not ever going to replace getting people on the ground and collecting that raw evidence,” he said. “I will update the county webpage rapidly and diligently when new predictions for our county are reported.”

Ladd reflected on his time with the United States Army, serving approximately 33 years in domestic relations at both the state and national level. He said the experience has made him better equipped and more knowledgeable about neighboring counties and other peers that work together during hurricane season.

“Emergency Management is just one asset of this huge machine made up of our other county teams, neighboring counties, the sheriff’s office and hundreds and hundreds of law enforcement officers and firefighters,” he said. “The bottom line is, when the hurricane hits, we are all in this together.”

As for the role of deputy director, Ladd said he will still be able to handle most of the duties (as they often coincide with the role of emergency management director). One deputy director responsibility includes receiving and reporting information to Blue Skies Meteorology.

Blue Skies is a weather and climate consulting company based in Gainesville that helps its clients with climatology studies, weather risk analyses, weather event reconstruction and other climate-related issues.

“Clay County residents can expect the same level of clear and constant information ahead of storms and during emergency situations, which is the procedure for Clay County Emergency Management,” a county spokeswoman said. “We have strong partnerships with county leaders, law enforcement, and public safety officials, and we are proud of the team in place that works around the clock during a storm or emergency situation to keep Clay County safe and informed.”

Click here to view Clay County’s “disaster preparedness” webpage.

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Accredited journalist with experience covering a wide range of stories consisting of breaking news, city and county government, crime and courts, feature stories and local interest. Twitter: @zoeyfields0

Jacksonville, FL

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