Amelia Island Beaches Red Flag Conditions, Hurricane Dorian’s Path Uncertain

Regardless of Hurricane Dorian’s exact path, northeast Florida is expecting red flag ocean conditions at the beaches, higher tides, periods of heavy rain, potential flooding, and wind.

Rough Surf & Rip Current Warnings

As the last big holiday weekend of the summer of 2019 approaches, Hurricane Dorian looms in the Atlantic basin. The storm is currently projected to make landfall as a Category 4 Hurricane. Exactly where the powerful storm will first land remains uncertain (see the “cone of uncertainty,” map below). Governor Ron DeSantis has declared a state of emergency for all 67 counties in the state of Florida.

Regardless of the hurricane’s exact path, northeast Florida is expecting to experience dangerous red flag ocean conditions at the beaches, higher tides, periods of heavy rain, potential flooding, and wind. Red flags flying at the beach indicate a “high hazard — high seas and surf conditions. Currents and surf dangerous for all levels of swimmers.”

NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center

According to the most recent update by Ken Graham, at the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Dorian’s center could be anywhere from south Georgia through the Florida peninsula, as the “cone of uncertainty” shows on the map below (August 29, 2019 at 11 am). Graham is the National Hurricane Center Director for NOAA’s National Weather Service.

NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center Dorian Map August 29, 2019 (11 am)
NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center Dorian Map 8/29/2019

At this early stage of the forecast, according to Ken Graham, the cone of uncertainty depicts “where we think the center of the storm could be two-thirds of the time, based on our average error over the last five years.”

Amelia Island Beaches

According to an update provided Thursday, August 29, 2019 by the Mayor of Fernandina Beach on Facebook, the chief of the Fernandina Beach Fire Department has made the following statement about Amelia Island’s beaches:

Nor’Easter & High Tides

“We are currently flying RED FLAGS on the beaches and I will be meeting with my staff today to determine if and when we will close the beaches. If is safer to keep people out of the water, than to conduct a rescue during these rough conditions. Tides are running higher because of the moon phase and we have a Nor’easter that has developed. All of these weather phenomenon’s create an even greater danger in the surf. “ (FBFD)

Source: Mayor Johnny Miller’s Facebook Update Posted August 29, 2019

Sabrina Robertson of the County Manager’s Office indicated that the County “encourages residents to remain vigilant and to be prepared as the storm has the potential for large storm surges and strong winds, even without direct hit,” (update published August 29, 2019 at Nassau County’s website).

Notice of “Special Meeting” For Hurricane Dorian

Nassau County has also announced a “Notice of Special meeting of The Board of County Commissioners for an update on Hurricane Dorian and to discuss county preparations.” The meeting will held Friday, August 30, 2019 at 3 pm, at the James S. Page Governmental Complex, 96135 Nassau Place, Yulee, Florida. The public is invited to be present and be heard.

Projected Intensity Category 4 Hurricane

With a wide “cone of uncertainty,” it’s still too early to know whether a possible “mandatory evacuation” of Amelia Island will be enacted in coming days. As of this writing (8/29/2019), the 11 am National Hurricane Center update, there was a change in the storm’s expected intensity at landfall. Forecasters are now predicting that Dorian will strengthen to a Category 4.

Amelia Island Is Cat 1 Evacuation Zone

In the event that a Category 1 hurricane is projected to be near northeast Florida, there will be a mandatory evacuation of Amelia Island. However, it’s not just near the ocean that can be inundated from storm surge. According to Nassau County’s website, “Depending on the scenario (i.e. Storm Category, Forward Speed, Direction, Ground Saturation), water depths all over Nassau County could reach from a few inches to over 25 feet; surge can cause flooding well into our river basins, not just at the coast.”

Know Your Nassau Evacuation Zone

The Nassau County, Florida Property Appraiser’s interactive map has been updated so residents can identify their hurricane evacuation zone, right down to the exact lot/parcel on the map. Note that evacuation zones are NOT THE SAME as FEMA flood map zones. Zoom into your address on this Nassau County, FL property map to see your evacuation zone.

39 MPH Winds Close Bridges

According to Nassau County’s website, “Once sustained winds reach 39 MPH, bridges will be closed for safety, so evacuation of the island must already be complete.”

Local Hurricane Alerts & Info

Sign up to receive Nassau County, Florida EMERGENCY ALERTS to keep informed of local advisories. Also keep up to date on hurricane news specific to Nassau County, Florida by following the Nassau County Emergency Management Facebook page. Also see a Nassau County Citizen’s Disaster Preparedness Guide online.

Beach Alerts Via Text

Get daily Amelia Island beach condition alerts on cell phones by texting BCHSAFE to 888-777. These texts indicate ocean conditions and warn when to stay out of the ocean.

Amelia Island Hurricane History

Looking back over the last 25 years, there have been three previous mandatory evacuations of Amelia Island. Two of these evacuations occurred in consecutive hurricane seasons, Hurricane Irma in September 2017, and Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. Prior to that, Amelia Island had not been evacuated since Hurricane Floyd back in September 1999. Each year, the Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1 and ends November 30th.