Message from Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle

It’s time to prepare for the 2020 hurricane season

May 21, 2020

Staff set up pumps in St. Johns County to help alleviate flooding
Members of the District’s Emergency Operations Center prepare in advance of 2019’s Hurricane Dorian (left). At right, staff set up pumps in St. Johns County to help alleviate flooding during a 2016 hurricane.

The early development of Tropical Storm Arthur last week is a reminder that the start of hurricane season is just one week away. All of us at the St. Johns River Water Management District are reviewing our plans and preparing just in case ― and we encourage you to prepare now as well.

The District’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC) team works year-round making sure we are ready for hurricane season and other emergencies to protect the District’s public assets, and to assist local governments, state and regional leaders and the public we serve. Our EOC team leadership recently completed the Federal Emergency Management Professional Development Series and are gaining valuable skills in FEMA’s advanced professional certification programs.

District leaders have reviewed and updated all emergency planning documents and we received state approval of our Continuity of Operations Plan. Our Operations and Maintenance staff continue to make updates to levees and water control structures at the headwaters of the St. Johns River, where our Governing Board approved the replacement of hydraulic gate lifts with drum and cable systems to reduce long-term maintenance. This work is part of our core mission to provide flood protection.

Year-round our permitting staff play a part in flood protection through their work to ensure stormwater is managed on developed sites and that new drainage ditches or significant changes to existing ditches are coordinated regionally. The District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issue permits to install stormwater systems, which typically then become the legal responsibility of a homeowners’ association or property management company.

Your local government is also a partner in preparing for and addressing flooding emergencies. Local governments are the primarily entities responsible for land use planning, maintaining stormwater systems, implementing a community’s master stormwater plan as well as retrofit projects for areas built prior to the state’s stormwater rules.

We hope a storm doesn’t impact our region this year, but if it does we are ready to assist local governments, secure District facilities and clean up District lands, take part in storm coordination efforts, provide data, conduct damage assessments, provide assistance in Tallahassee, and have pumps deployed and operating in the region’s communities to help alleviate flooding.

As June 1 approaches, and Tropical Storm Arthur proves, it’s time to report any issues with storm drains to your local government, find out if you are in a flood-prone area and know who to contact in an emergency. Visit www.sjrwmd.com/storm where you’ll find information on the District’s role in storms and find links to the National Weather Service, NOAA’s flooding statements, and helpful local and state flood contacts.

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