September & October — Prime Time To Be Prepared For Hurricanes

Watch NASSAU Emergency Management’s hurricane preparedness round table video. Even residents who have lived in Fernandina Beach, Yulee, and Callahan for years may learn something new.

About 75% of tropical storm activity happens in September and October, according to experts. This fits with Amelia Island’s evacuation history of the past 25 years. Three of the four mandatory evacuations of Amelia Island during the past quarter century have occurred during September (the fourth in October). This includes the long ago Hurricane Floyd that passed by Amelia Island out to sea on September 15, 1999.

Hurricane Dorian Satellite Image September 4, 2019
Three Evacuations During Last 4 Seasons

Three mandatory evacuations of Amelia Island during the last four hurricane seasons were triggered by Matthew (October 2016), Irma (September 2017), and Dorian (September 2019). However, prior to this was a 17-year gap — zero evacuations of Amelia Island — between Floyd in 1999 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Although these hurricanes in the northeast Florida region were too close for comfort, none made landfall here.

Watch Nassau Emergency Management’s Video

Even for those who have lived in Nassau County, Florida (Amelia Island/Yulee/Callahan) for a long time, but especially newcomers, Nassau County Emergency Management’s hurricane preparedness video further below, is worth watching.

Nassau County Storm Surge Discussion

The discussion of storm surge during the “Nassau County Hurricane Preparedness” round table is particularly interesting. An explanation is given about why the Florida-Georgia border is especially vulnerable to storm surge under certain circumstances as described below.

Al Sandrik, the Warning Coordination Meteorologist for National Weather Service in Jacksonville, made the following comments during the round table discussion, quoted below.

“We reside in one of the most dangerous storm surge areas on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. There’s only about two other areas along the Atlantic coast that rival north Florida and southeastern Georgia for storm surge…..If you look at the coastline from about let’s say Cape Lookout, NC all the way down to Cape Canaveral, Fl, we’re at the bottom of a bowl, and we’re in most far western part of a bowl. If you pour water into a funnel, where does the water go? It goes to the base. Then, think about our estuary system, we’ve got the Nassau River, we’ve got the St. Marys River, the St. Johns River, and Trout River, and all those go so far west into the county. Well that’s like the stem of the funnel.  So you pour the water into the funnel, it all goes into the bottom and then it gets pushed down the funnel, well that’s our rivers. If we have a hurricane that comes at us from the east and the winds are blowing directly from the ocean onto the land, it’s going to drive all that water across the continental shelf and it’s going to drive it to the base of the bowl, which again is us. (Dungeness is actually the furthest west point on Cumberland Island), and then right straight up our rivers. So we can get storm surge flooding coming up Thomas Creek, we can get it coming up Christian Creek, and Alligator Creek into the city of Callahan. How many people in the city of Callahan understand that ocean water can be flowing through their streets in a Category 4 hurricane, and even a Category 3, if the right storm surge happens.” 

Al Sandrik, Warning Coordination Meteorologist, National Weather Service

Thankfully, there hasn’t been such a scenario, a major hurricane coming in from the east as described above, during the last century here.

Amelia Island CAT 1 Evacuation Zone

Amelia Island is a Category 1 hurricane evacuation zone (all of the island is evacuation zone A). There are several evacuation zones throughout Nassau County, FL.

Hurricane Preparedness & Pandemic

This year Emergency Management has the added issue of planning for a potential evacuation during COVID-19. This informative “Hurricane Preparedness Through A Pandemic” round table discussion was originally live streamed on Facebook. The moderator, Rebecca Barry, is a NEWS4JAX Meteorologist.

Round Table Participants
  • Al Sandrik — Warning Coordination Meteorologist for National Weather Service in JAX
  • Greg Foster – Director of Nassau County Emergency Management
  • Doug Podiak  –Nassau County Public Works Director
  • Jeffrey Bunch  — Nassau County School District
2020 Hurricane Season

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has been extremely active to date. All hurricane names have now been depleted. Apparently, this situation has only happened once before, about 50 years ago.

The Greek alphabet is now being used to identify tropical storms. As of September 18, 2020, “Alpha” and “Beta” were in the Atlantic basin. And there’s another two-plus months to go. (Hurricane season is June 1 through November 30th each year).

On September 14, 2020 a remarkable number — five — tropical cyclones were in the Atlantic Basin at the same time. This many storms at once hasn’t happened since September in 1971.

Five tropical storms in Atlantic Basin on September 14, 2020. National Hurricane Center satellite image.
Population & Tourism Growth

In the two decades since Hurricane Floyd (September 1999), Fernandina Beach and the Yulee area have grown a lot. Besides people moving here, there’s also been remarkable visitor growth as Amelia Island was “discovered,” fueled by marketing dollars invested in promoting Amelia Island tourism via the Amelia Island TDC. Thus, evacuating Nassau County is a bigger task today than it was 21 years ago. And it’s going to get much bigger with the anticipated population growth explosion in this coming decade. Nassau County is projected to increase by 31,304 people during the 10-year time span from 2019 to 2029. This estimate is according to the TischlerBise Growth Study completed for Nassau County, FL (report dated June 2020).

Future Sea Level Rise

A non-profit land preservation organization, the North Florida Land Trust, states on their website: “The Nassau River, which has the greatest tidal range of any river in Florida, is the most likely river to be impacted by the flooding caused by sea level rise.”

Nassau County Evacuation Zones

See more info about Nassau County, Florida evacuation zones. Look up any home’s exact address on map. Sign up for Nassau County’s emergency alerts send via text to mobile phones at Nassau Emergency’s website. When a hurricane is threatening, Nassau County residents can find out more about emergency shelter openings by calling 904-548-0900. Nassau news updates during storms will also be posted to social media, follow via NASSAU EM on Facebook or on Twitter @NassauEm .

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