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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jul. 30, 202001:30 PM EST

Woodard: City storm shelters adapted for COVID-19 if needed

The National Hurricane Center forecasts Tropical Storm Isaias could impact Northeast Florida by Aug. 2
by: Mike Mendenhall Staff Writer

Jacksonville Chief of the Emergency Preparedness Division Steven Woodard said designated city storm shelters are prepared for COVID-19, as Tropical Storm Isaias approaches Florida.

During a July 30 news conference with Mayor Lenny Curry, Woodard said his division has been working with the Red Cross and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before the start of hurricane season to adjust the city’s emergency preparedness plan for the pandemic. 

Although the storm’s track is off Duval County’s coast Aug. 2, Woodard said 29 shelters have been identified. 

He said city officials have coordinated with Duval County Public Schools to ensure the district’s shelters can allow for social distancing if the storm impacts Northeast Florida.

“Right now, in our discussion with the Jacksonville National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, if this storm keeps to the track they’re predicting, likely we’ll not open shelters. But they’re certainly ready if we need to,” Woodard said.

Woodward said July 30 that the city typically uses 10 to 12 shelters during a tropical storm or hurricane evacuation event. 

The city shelters an average of 5,000 people if evacuations are ordered and only about 1% of evacuees need shelter during a storm, Curry said.

According to the National Hurricane Center, Isaias became a named tropical storm July 29, with 60 mph winds. The storm was about 50 miles southwest of the Dominican Republic as of 11:30 a.m. July 24.

Curry said, although it’s too early to determine the storm’s local impact, the hurricane center is predicting the storm will have tropical storm force winds Aug. 2. 

“Even if we don’t have an impact from this storm, this is a good time and a good reminder that we are in hurricane season and we should be prepared and prepared to navigate it in the time of a pandemic,” Curry said.

Curry discussed the financial strain COVID-19 will have on some area families and individuals during hurricane season. He urged those needing financial assistance while assembling and restocking a hurricane supply kit to contact the United Way of Northeast Florida, the Red Cross or local churches.

He urged shoppers who might experience longer lines because of virus capacity restrictions to wear face masks and follow social distancing guidance posted in stores. 

Curry said people should check to be prepared with evacuation zone information and storm resources. 

“Let’s prepare for this season. Let’s practice the safe social distancing and let’s just take care of one another,” Curry said.


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