North Florida officials warn of rip currents in wake of tropical storm

Campgrounds reopen after storms in St. Johns County

Safety should remain first this holiday weekend.
Safety should remain first this holiday weekend.

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – As the weather improves at the beaches in the wake of Tropical Storm Colin, St. Johns County officials warned that dangers still exist below the surface of the ocean.

WJXT reports rip currents are a concern, officials said, and red flags will remain up Tuesday.

St. Johns County Marine Rescue is advising people to use extreme caution in the ocean and will be patrolling the beaches and staffing lifeguard towers.

Officials closed Anastasia State Park Monday and evacuated campers ahead of Tropical Storm Colin. 

"I would say maybe about 120 campsites (were evacuated)," Park Ranger Rene Acuna said. "But the perfect thing was 90 percent of them were more than cooperative and understanding. That's a wonderful thing."

Park rangers said they were monitoring the situation, and the campgrounds reopened Tuesday just before 10 a.m.

By 7 p.m. Monday, International Golf Parkway at Interstate 95 in St. Augustine was closed because of water from passing thunderstorms. Troopers urged caution because of standing water at the bottom of the entrance ramp northbound.

Community cancelations, closures, status

  • Garbage collection for the county was suspended Monday afternoon due to deteriorating weather conditions. Garbage collection Tuesday will take place as normally scheduled.
  • Anastasia State Park and Faver Dykes State Park are open for regular business hours.
  • St. Johns County Beach Services has secured beach vehicular access gates and removed travel lane infrastructure. Vehicle access is expected to be effected Monday from 2 p.m. to Wednesday 2 p.m. Subject to change dependent on conditions.
  • Due to the improving weather situation, the bookmobile stop originally scheduled for this afternoon at Publix at Nocatee Town Center 1:30 – 3:30 pm.
  • First Coast Technical College canceled all evening classes scheduled for Monday
  • St. Johns River State College canceled all evening classes scheduled for Monday

EOC at the ready

The St. Johns County Emergency Operations Center was activated at Level 3 as officials continue to monitor the approach of Colin.

News4Jax visited the center and spoke with Emergency Management Director Linda Stoughton about how it responds to emergencies.

Stoughton said officials at the center had been on conference calls, monitoring the storm to see what it would do next.

"They give us a good brief as to what the storm looks like, where it's at, its intensity, the projected tracks of the storm, what its impacts could be for not only the state of Florida on the west coast, but also specifically for Northeast Florida,” Stoughton said. “They talk about potential amounts of rainfall, wind, intensity of the storm, and if we have the possibility of tornado activity."

When the center is activated, it becomes bustling with activity from fire officials, law enforcement and people from the Public Works Department to address road conditions.

Activating the Emergency Operations Center:

  • Level 3 is a monitoring situation
  • Level 2 is a partial monitoring situation including critical and emergency functions with emergency medical services, fire, police and public works.
  • Level 1 is a full alert and the center is packed with emergency officials.

Stoughton told News4Jax they encourage everyone to have a family plan, their disaster supplies and monitor what's going on in the tropics from now until Nov. 30. Officials urged residents to take loose items out of their yards, protect their homes and gather supplies like flashlights and a radio.

File: SJC preps for Tropical Storm Colin

“We always encourage them to take care of their home, strengthen their home and pick up any objects outside -- lawn chairs, maybe planters and those types of things,” said Stoughton. “If we do see flooding in the county, maybe it's not a good day to be driving around. We don't know that yet. We"re still waiting for more information but if we do start seeing low-lying areas start to flood, maybe it's a good idea to avoid those areas and be careful on our highways.”

St. Johns County provided free sandbags at five locations throughout the county in preparation for Tropical Storm Colin. The sand and the bags were provided free of charge.

St. Augustine initiates standard storm preparedness

As Tropical Storm Colin continued to move north out of the Gulf of Mexico and into Florida's Big Bend, the City of St. Augustine proceeded with its standard storm preparedness.

The Lincolnville CRA Steering Committee meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at the Willie Galimore Center was postponed.  For more information, contact the Planning and Building Department at 904-825-1065.

JC Costeira, St. Augustine’s fire chief and emergency preparedness official, urged the public to be mindful of the storm and take any necessary precautions, and to be especially alert to the times of high tide over the next couple of days, as that is when localized flooding is most likely. The remaining high tides for Tuesday will be at 11:10 a.m. and 11:34 p.m.

Martha Graham, the city’s Public Works Director, reported Monday morning that the department had already begun all the required preparedness for this level of activation. Such preparations included ensuring its fleet of trucks, heavy equipment and emergency generators are fueled and road closure signs and barricades are staged at points where road flooding is most likely.

For the most up-to-date local information, the public is advised to visit the St. Johns County Emergency Management website at www.sjcemergencymanagement.com.

About the Authors: