Mayor Lenny Curry and city officials were on high-alert Wednesday in preparation for Hurricane Matthew, a storm expected to be a Category 3 when it reaches Northeast Florida on Friday.
Sustained winds are expected to be 30-50 mph, while gusts could reach 60-80 mph. Storm surge and rain are expected to cause flooding in coastal and low-lying areas.
The anticipated impact was enough for Curry to declare a state of emergency for the city Wednesday afternoon and order the Beaches communities and residents in city evacuation zones A and B to leave.
Those zones comprise all areas east of the Intracoastal Waterway, all of Northeast Duval County and most of the areas along the east-west portion of the St. Johns River.
A map showing the full area is available at bit.ly/2e1CBxu.
“We have a very serious threat before us right now,” Curry told City Council members during a noon briefing Wednesday.
The mayor said people should expect power outages from the storm and traffic backups associated with residents evacuating, but the city and its partners are doing what they can to make them minimal.
“There will likely be some uncomfortable moments,” he said.
Curry did not directly call the evacuation “mandatory” but instead a “direct order.”
“You need to leave,” he stressed.
There will be no government or public safety services available for those areas after the evacuation period when Matthew hits, Curry said.
“You will be on your own,” he said.
Bridges will be closed at times during the storm when winds reach certain speeds.
Shelters began opening Wednesday afternoon, starting with the Legends Center, 5054 Soutel Drive, to accommodate those with special needs.
Shelters at Twin Lakes Elementary, 8000 Point Meadows Drive; Landmark Middle School, 101 Kernan Blvd.; and Atlantic Coast High School, 9735 A.C. Skinner Parkway opened this morning. Pets are allowed in all of these shelters except at Twin Lakes Elementary.
As shelters begin to reach 50 percent capacity, others will open.
Hurricane Matthew has caused many closures and cancelations around the area over the next few of days, including:
• City Hall will be closed today and Friday.
• Duval County Public Schools today and Friday.
• Classes at Florida State College at Jacksonville, Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida through Sunday.
• Courthouses in the 4th Circuit (which comprises Clay, Duval and Nassau counties) today and Friday.
• The Web.com Tour Championship in Atlantic Beach today-Sunday.
• The Riverside Arts Market on Saturday.
• The St. Johns River Ferry today and Friday.
• The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens will be closed today and Friday.
• Garbage pick-up normally scheduled for Friday will be done Saturday.
For up-to-date information, the city has several social media accounts. They include Twitter accounts for the City of Jacksonville (@CityofJax), Curry (@LennyCurry) and JaxReady (@JaxReady).
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