Less than four days from Hurricane Irma’s impact on Flagler County, emergency management, government and law enforcement officials today were in full metal jacket mode as they prepared, re-prepared and over-prepared for the worst–activating the Emergency Operations Center, starting mandatory evacuations, dumping loads of sand along breach-prone segments of beach, going over search and rescue plans, investigation plans in case of deaths, cautioning about curfews to come and a much stricter stand against curfew-breakers than was the case in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.
“Anything that’s moving that’s not a law enforcement vehicle, I want stopped, and I want you to verify they have a legitimate reason to be in that area,” Sheriff Rick Staly said during an early-afternoon preparatory briefing with his command staff. “I’m aware of what happened last time. We’re not putting up with that this time.” He was referring to a curfew order that was essentially ignored the night after Hurricane Matthew passed through, when Palm Coast was very quickly abuzz with traffic and local tourism, agape at the scene.
“I was a citizen last year during the hurricane, I came back from Orlando, I was never pulled over, I went back some cars,” Staly said. He’s not interested in deputies harassing law-abiding residents who have legitimate reasons to be out, but he wants deputies to go after miscreants. “It’s a zero-tolerance for the criminal element,” he said. “If they’ve got a legitimate reason, then fine, we’ve got to use common sense.” He was quickly echoed by Flagler Beach Police Chief Matthew Doughney, who was in the briefing, along with Bunnell Police Chief Tom Foster.
That’s assuming Hurricane Irma’s impact is serious. That forecast has been fluid. While it is almost certain that South Florida will be struck, it’s much less so that Flagler County will be, with the latest projections showing Hurricane Irma wobbling some 40 to 50 miles east of the coast. That would diminish the storms more violent wind impacts, but it would increase the dangers of a significant storm surge and potential flooding on the barrier island and along canal zones and low-lying areas in Palm Coast.
“It’s either a stronger Hurricane Matthew event or a worse event if the eye hits us,” County Administrator Craig Coffey said. Hurricane Matthew provoked a 7-foot storm surge–and overran the dunes, flooding the barrier island. Irma is projected to provoke a 10-foot storm surge, and to do so against a barrier island whose natural protections were significantly eroded by Matthew.
“We’re anticipating A1A to be severed in multiple locations, we’re anticipating flooding in multiple locations, and we’re anticipating widespread power shortages,” Coffey said, with those power cuts expected to be longer than during Matthew, because so much more of the rest of the state will be impacted.
Severe damage to A1A is expected north of the town of Marineland, between North 18th and 23rd Street in Flagler Beach, and areas south of the Flagler Beach Pier.
With all the rain that’s fallen in the last few weeks, and with trees weakened by the last storm, trees may be more easily uprooted or snapped.
There is a voluntary evacuation order for many of the areas east of I-95 currently, and a mandatory evacuation order for nursing homes, assisted living facilities and community nursing homes–meaning assisted living facilities that operate out of residential, single or double-family homes–in those flood-prone areas. Staly said a mandatory order will follow, “probably tomorrow,” meaning Friday, for those flood-prone areas.
“Mandatory” is actually a misnomer: “We in law enforcement cannot force someone out of their home but here’s what we have to tell them,” Staly said. But people who choose to stay, he said, must be aware that if they get in trouble during the storm, first responders will not be sent to them: law enforcement and firefighters will not be placed in harm’s way “because you chose not to evacuate,” Staly said.
“Once the storm gets here, we can’t get out there to help you,” Flagler County Fire Chief Don Petito said in a news conference this afternoon, words echoed by Palm Coast Fire Chief Mike Beadle. Coffey started the news conference by noting the date: September 7 is 11 months to the day after Hurricane Matthew.
“For those that do stay, we ask that you help your neighbor, show compassion, be Flagler strong,” Doughney said during the news conference, before repeating what he’d said, by way of warning, during the sheriff’s briefing. (“We’re going to be out there hunting people that are out there up to no good,” Chief Paul Bovino of the Sheriff’s Office had said during that briefing, though the majority of Bovino’s concern was with a methodical and finely tuned execution of a hurricane-response plan he went over with the command staff.)
On the other hand, the sheriff will have its Emergency Response Team activated, along with patrols and task forces that include three relatively massive military surplus vehicles that are able to navigate areas that may be impassable to other vehicles. That Emergency Response Team will be used for rescues and evacuations immediately after the storm has passed, when winds have died down.
The governor has encouraged all the sheriffs to call if we need something, and he will make it happen,” Staly said, telling his command staff to make sure to let him know if problems develop to the point where state intervention is necessary. “I’m not afraid to make those phone calls. We are in this together, no one is alone, we’re a team, this agency is already shining, but this is when you come together and shine for the community.”
“We’re gearing up for the worst and hoping for the best,” Coffey said.”
Gerald Wilkinson says
So sad to hear this! Stay safe! M&J
Michael Winchester III says
should have built a seawall but nooooo
Alysha Schild says
Feel bad for y’all this time:-/ but I’m so happy I don’t have to worry about being quarantined at work with a newborn this time!
Richard Cade says
Why didn’t they fix a1a properly last year?
Kymberly Anne says
Ohh Yeah, I remember….the Governor came out & everything. Wow.
Anita Jarrett-McKinnon says
Will be keeping everyone in our thoughts & prayers as we head north, on a pre planned trip.
Judy Hemphill Clay says
So when is the bridges going to close
Jason Stanier says
When the winds hit 45mph.
Julie Vaccaro says
Property values….gonna tank…ugh
Crystal Schuh says
I guess you should have put up the seawall.
Spades Reid says
I wouldn’t live in Florida if someone bought me a house been there done that
Gene Crawford says
What a waste of money then as they pat each other on the back at how fast a1a was “fixed” they award the contractor a bonus for finishing ahead of schedule, yet if squirrel pees on a1a the road washes out taking what’s left of the dune with it
a tiny manatee says
If only there were some sort of ongoing restoration project that involved building a sea wall that would help prevent this from happening
Yeah BS. That guy in his Hummer driving all over flagler beach last time broadcasting on Facebook? And people in trucks driving nh on the broken edge of A1A? They gonna address that? I doubt it.
So, if I stay and we are in a non evacuated area, and our house is gone, no one is going to help us because it’s storming? Unacceptable! This is not how it went down in Texas. You need to be here for everyone. Evacuated area or not. If you aren’t lives could be lost. Totally wrong.
Jessica A Cocciolillo says
It was nice knowing you flagler beach.
May A1a r.i.p.
Like what I here from the sherif keep the looters away from our homes incase it gets bad. Also I will have no promblem defending my property I will shoot any looters trying to take my belonging.
sounds like profiling.
So if we stay home out of fear of being arrested for unpaid parking tickets at a shelter, we also can’t be saved?, so what do we do, jus die, is that better? Also maybe this storm will finally close A1A for good in Flagler beach which is what needs to happen
Just the truth says
Didn’t Flagler Beach pay a lot of money to a contractor to fix A1A after Matthew several of thousands of dollars to get it fixed quickly and then it got damaged again. So, that was a big waste of tax payers money. Is Flagler Beach officials going to call the same contractor back for Irma? Wise up and fix it right and move on.
Wow! I guess personal responsibility doesn’t mean a thing anymore. If I choose to stay home after being told to GET OUT numerous times and something horrible happens to me or around me… I would expect NOTHING!!!!!!!!! I would 100% consider myself the idiot who should have listened and left. Period!! The police, firefighters and every other worker/helper has their own family to think about and care for also!!!! Everything isn’t going to go your way in life, so you better wake up quickly!
My husband runs a propane company and was put through hell this week by you selfish, self-absorbed and wait until the last-minute people that think you are the only ones on this earth who matters! Shame on you!!!!!!!!!!