Floridians know only too well the visuals that pop up on weather maps when a storm is brewing. It’s the dreaded “cone of uncertainty” broadcast profusely by weather forecasters and other media. However, hurricane experts say the “cone of uncertainty” is often misunderstood by the public. The National Hurricane Center explains the cone in video:
Amelia Island Evacuations
Amelia Island has gone through three mandatory evacuations during the past four hurricane seasons — Matthew (2016), Irma (2017), and Dorian (2019). With Isaias brewing this weekend, Nassau County Emergency Management indicated on Friday, July 31, 2020 that “no evacuations are planned, but a special needs shelter will be on stand-by in case of extended county power outages.”
Nassau County Anticipates “Strong Nor’easter”
According to the Friday news update by Nassau County Emergency Management, the local impact of Isaias is anticipated to be “conditions similar to a strong Nor’easter on Sunday that could produce minor flooding in parts of the county.” The storm will be monitored this weekend with “situational updates at 9:00 a.m. and again at 3:00 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.” Follow local updates via the Nassau County Emergency Management Facebook page.
To date, there have been nine named storms this Atlantic hurricane season 2020, the latest Isaias. According to hurricane experts, the 2020 Atlantic basin season is now tied with the year 2005 for the most Atlantic named storm formations since 1851. Isaias has set the record for the earliest 9th Atlantic named storm formation. For clarification, the Atlantic basin is not just the Atlantic Ocean, but includes the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.
Hurricane Season 2020 Outlook
The latest Atlantic basin outlook issued May 21, 2020 by NOAA indicated “a 60% chance that the 2020 season will be above normal, a 30% chance being near normal, and only a 10% chance of it being below normal.” Note this outlook is for activity, but is not a landfall forecast. Also, NOAA will be updating the hurricane season outlook again in early August 2020.
Interestingly, NOAA cites “several climate factors that are conducive to increased hurricane activity,” including one that has been in effect for the past 24 years, since 1995 (watch NOAA video explanation below).
NOAA 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Video
Potential Pandemic Evacuation
This year during the hurricane season of 2020, there’s a whole new layer of complexity with the pandemic and public shelters, if a mandatory evacuation of an area was required.
Locally, a Facebook post this week by Nassau County’s Emergency Management stated “We are especially concerned about infectious disease transmission this year due to our pandemic, so staying in a public shelter should only be your last option.” (Note that most Nassau County’s citizens do not seek local shelters, but instead make their own plans). When a storm is threatening, Nassau residents can find out about shelter openings by calling 904-548-0900.
Nassau County also sent a text message alert to mobile phones on July 29th stating they are “Recruiting medical professionals to assist in public health emergencies and evacuation shelters.”
Nassau County Evacuation Zones
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 the 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.” This is why it’s important to know your Nassau County, FL evacuation zone. See more info about tidal surge and local evacuation zones, look up your address on map. Also, for general readiness, learn more about how to prepare for hurricane season in Nassau County, Florida. Also visit the National Hurricane Center website for more information.
For Florida emergency personnel and government officials at all levels, there’s the decision making process to order an evacuation, and the logistics of coordinating a safe evacuation when the situation arises. These tasks are full of challenges in evolving/changing circumstances. Nassau County Emergency Management officials, county employees and volunteers deserve kudos for last year’s hurricane preparation activities in advance, during, and after Hurricane Dorian.
Florida’s beaches, boating, golf, no snow and no state income tax lures relocations to the Sunshine State. In recent times, Florida’s net new residents is at a pace of around 330,000 per year. Growth makes emergency situations like hurricanes even more challenging, the task of evacuating a larger population (not to mention visiting tourists), during hurricane season.
Transplants from other states, some without any former experience with hurricanes, need to learn about hurricane season preparation. The city of Jacksonville in northeast Florida has the biggest city population in the state. It’s also the largest city by land area in America’s lower 48 states.
Floridians who have been through the last five years of hurricane activity (or more) have learned a hurricane’s “cone of uncertainty” often changes substantially from early predictions to the day before/day of the actual event.
If directed to evacuate an area, those without family within a few hours drive soon discover challenges to finding options of where to go. Potentially “safe” destinations can also fluctuate as a hurricane nears, requiring cancelling hotel bookings and re-booking in another place. That is, if one can find an available room to book.
Let’s hope the residents of Nassau County don’t have to deal with another evacuation this hurricane season of 2020. Three mandatory evacuations of Amelia Island since 2016 already seems too many in a short time span. Especially since islanders got used to zero evacuations for the prior 17 year period (since 1999’s Hurricane Floyd, up until 2016’s Matthew).