While it may seem calm outside right now, and Nassau County’s Emergency Operations Center facebook page says it will activate to a Level 2 (indicating a threat is looming) at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, you need to pay attention to the television and radio for the newest updates on Tropical Depression NINE. Knowing when the National Hurricane Center delivers updates will keep you from wasting hours of precious time in anticipation of the newest news as the system approaches the Florida peninsula. Official updates including the progress and potential track of the storm, watches and/or warnings that may be issued, and the associated maps and graphics are updated every six hours… think 5:00 and 11 o’clock (a.m. and p.m.). In addition, interim updates come out at 2:00 and 8 o’clock. Times are set to the time zone of the center of the tropical disturbance (I think).

It has been quite some time since our last big tropical event, so we may be a bit complacent and lackadaisical while the local media focuses on the pending system. At the time I wrote this, there were no current warnings or watches up for northeast Florida, but, they will likely be issued should the system remain on the current track.

Just to be safe, this may be a good time to open the hurricane kit you have stored in the garage and see what’s in there. Is it possible that some of your emergency supplies may be expired, or were used on your most recent camping trip? I suggest you go ahead and stock up on water, baby food, diapers, and formula, medications and personal sanitary supplies, pet food, extra batteries, and non-perishable foods that will last for three to five days should we experience an extended power outage, or flooded or blocked roads. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit, too.

It is a good idea to have a similar kit packed in your car in case you need to leave in a hurry. Don’t forget food, water, jumper cables, and a map – as signs often blow down. The GPS on your smartphone phone may finally come in handy! This may be a good time to charge those portable cell phone chargers that have been laying around the house since last Christmas, as well.

Make an emergency plan for communicating with friends, relatives, and loved ones. We use someone, not in our geographical location, as a central source for communicating with others. A large portion of our family is located in various parts of Florida, but our oldest daughter is in Chattanooga; she will be our central point of communications.

As the system approaches, it is looking like we may indeed experience sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph as it passes through Northeast Florida. Flooding and flash flooding could be an issue as the depression is expected to produce 4 to 6 inches of rain over Amelia Island by Friday morning, and up to 12 inches in some areas.

If you live in an area prone to flooding, make preparations now such as filling sandbags or moving furniture, vehicles and other valuables to higher ground. You should go ahead and secure items around your home so they don’t become projectiles in the event of high winds. Items to put away or tie down include:

Yard signs (We just had “election day”)
Lawn furniture
Buckets
Children’s toys
Tiki torches
Pool toys
Plants stands and shepherd hooks
Trash cans
Yard art and Landscaping “features”

Watches and Warning
A Watch = conditions are favorable for a weather event to occur.
A Warning = Weather events have been reported by spotters.

Example:
A severe thunderstorm watch would mean conditions are favorable for a severe thunderstorm to occur.
A severe thunderstorm warning means severe thunderstorms are occurring in the designated “warning” area.

The same with a tornado watch vs. a tornado warning. A tornado “watch” means conditions are ripe for a tornado to occur, while a tornado “warning” means a tornado has been spotted in the designated warning area. Tornadoes are very likely when these tropical systems pass over land.

Power outages and wind
Usually our electricity begins to fail when power lines are knocked down by flying debris and falling limbs. With gusts of 20 to 30 mph you can expect dead limbs to fall from trees. With winds of 30 to 40 mph, large trees begin to sway and walking can be tough; lawn furniture will blow around and trash cans will tumble over. At 41 to 50 mph, branches will break off of trees, you may see shingles blow off, and eaves can lift, too. NOAA.gov describes “Damaging winds are classified as those exceeding 50 – 60 mph” and along with 60 mph winds you can expect windows to blow out and parts of your roof to fly off, and at 75 mph – structures can become compromised and debris being blown around becomes hazardous to people, and everything else in its path. And winds can become stronger if they are funneled between tight areas – such as houses that are built very close together.

Unlike a typical 30 minute summer thunderstorm, where we see strong winds and torrential rains, these tropical conditions can last for several hours.

I’m currently trying to find an “accurate” answer to when the bridges to Amelia Island are closed due to high winds.

Updates to this article may be added as warranted.

Stay safe!