A low-pressure system in the Gulf of Mexico that will whirl across Florida over the weekend, from the Big Bend area to Jacksonville, is expected to churn up the Atlantic with up to 10-foot waves and significantly higher tides that may cause flooding, it is already kicking up wind gusts of up to 40 mph in places, and it is cancelling weekend plans such as the much-anticipated Palm Coast Starlight Parade.
The city announced today, with regrets, the cancellation of the parade scheduled for Saturday at Central Park in Town Center. It was to have been the first Starlight Parade in three years. But the city is not taking chances with the weather’s grinchiness: Ten years ago, the parade was abbreviated on the approach of a tornado that ripped through the B, C and F Sections. Though no one was injured, damage was heavy. The city is keen neither on a decennial commemoration nor risking the welfare of participants and spectators, some of whom are traveling long distances for the parade.
The decision was made in collaboration with public safety and emergency management partners, with the anticipated severe weather conditions that pose a risk to the safety of both participants and spectators. Rescheduling the event before Christmas is not feasible. Flagler Schools are still in session through Friday, and with next weekend leading into Christmas Eve, scheduling an alternative date that accommodates everyone involved poses significant challenges.
“Saturday into sunday particularly there’s a risk of thunderstorm, and the potential for severe thunderstorms,” Jonathan Lord, Flagler County’s emergency management director, said this afternoon. “Any time you see those conditions there’s the potential for a tornado in that.” But the timing of the most severe storms is expected to be Saturday evening through Saturday night, “which unfortunately is when the Starlight Parade was going to be.” Emergency Management was going to have its own vehicle in the parade: Lord is having to tell his staff to scrap that plan.
At least Christmas in Bunnell is still on for Friday evening at JB King Park on Citrus Street, with food trucks, music, entertainment, games, crafts, a petting zoo, a train, Christmas characters, Florida snow, and a visit by Santa and Mrs. Claus (who survived Covid and marriage counseling).
“The storm system is not quite here yet, but we’re already seeing elevated seas along the coast, we’ve had gusts in the 40 mph range in the Marineland area,” Lord said. He who was drafting a release of his own on the weekend weather’s cautions as he spoke to a reporter. “It’s going to get worse as we make our way through the weekend.”
Lord said the weather system is nothing more than a low making its way across the state, but its interaction with weather systems ahead of it are creating nor’easter-like conditions, and worrying authorities about the erosion and potential flooding ahead. Winds are expected to gust along the coast from 35 to 45 mph, with waves of between 6 to 10 feet, and tides 2 feet above normal. Wind gusts inland will be in the 24 to 35 mph range. The National Weather Service in Jacksonville is calling the weekend marine and coastal conditions “dangerous.”
The rough seas, Lord said, will be “chipping away at the dune line.” Though Flagler County spent the past year requiring long stretches of dunes along the county’s 18 miles of shoreline, it did so with emergency measures, and thinnish dunes of only a few square feet of sand per yard. It’s the sort of mounds that get wiped out in one storm. This may be that storm.
County authorities are also concerned about the potential for flooding along low-lying areas of the Intracoastal–almost certainly into yards, possibly into homes. Lord said the county is recommending that those “super-low properties” sand-bag their homes. The county is not providing sand bags, but bags and sand those are available at Home Depot, Lowe’s and some of the many Ace Hardware stores in town.
The county is recommending that, as in severe-storm situations, all yard objects are tied down, especially with all those holiday decorations floating about. Inflatable decorations may have to be strongly secured or deflated.
Rain on Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., is expected to total between half an inch and an inch in Flagler County, and double that from 7 p.m. Saturday night to 7 a.m. Sunday morning, with rain continuing after that.
The city in a release of its own extended its “heartfelt gratitude to all the participants, volunteers, community partners, and city staff who dedicated their time, creativity, and enthusiasm to preparing for this year’s Starlight Parade. Their commitment to the community is truly appreciated. While the Starlight Parade will not take place this year, the city said it remains committed to fostering community spirit and celebrating together.”