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NE Fla. Prepares For Eta; Duval Schools Online Only Thursday, Clay Schools Closed

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News4Jax
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Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry (at microphone) and city leaders provide an update Wednesday on preparations for Tropical Storm Eta.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for Clay and Putnam counties  due to Tropical Storm Eta. The storm is expected to affect the First Coast as a depression beginning overnight on Thursday, with the worst effects expected in Jacksonville around sunrise on Thursday.

Conditions are expected to rapidly improve by Thursday afternoon across most areas of the state.

Duval Public Schools will switch to online learning only in preparation for Tropical Storm Eta.

Superintendent Diana Greene said late Thursday afternoon she doesn’t suspect the quick change to online learning will cause any issues.

“As of March 9, for an entire semester or more, students were on Duval Homeroom so this is not something new for our families. They understand that we are making this decision, out of an abundance of caution,” Greene said.

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Elementary school students will begin their day at 10 a.m. Thursday, with the school day ending at 3 p.m., while secondary students are expected to sign on during normal school hours.
If students lose power during the storm, Greene said they’ll be given time to make up assignments.

Mayor Lenny Curry said the main impacts from the storm on Jacksonville will be from 1 to 5 pm. He said all city offices will remain open, and that businesses and private schools can decide what precautions they want to take individually.

Duval County was not under a Tropical Storm Watch or Warning at the time of this story’s publication, so no emergency shelters are expected to open.

Sheriff Mike Williams said the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office will be monitoring the wind speeds from the storm to determine if they'll need to close any bridges. 

Clay County announced Wednesday evening public schools will be closed in the county Thursday.

While some flooding is expected along the St. Johns River and its tributaries, Clay County Emergency Management Director John Ward said he doesn’t foresee any issues with Black Creek.

“So we're going to be expecting rain and some winds and with us already being saturated, we could be looking at power outages down trees and downed limbs, that's going to be our primary concern that we're dealing with in this," he said Wednesday afternoon.

Ward said he’s more worried about the possibility of urban flooding. 

While Eta is not expected to pose a severe threat to Northeast Florida, St. Johns County Emergency Management is encouraging residents to evaluate preparedness plans, know evacuation routes and zones, assemble or review supply kits, and prepare homes for potential inclement weather.

St. Johns residents can call the St. Johns County Emergency Operations Center during business hours at 904.824.5550.

The St. Johns County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller and all 7th Judicial Circuit Court operations have been suspended Thursday due to potential inclement weather impacts from Eta.

Mayor Curry is urging people near the coast to be extremely careful. "I know that many like to walk out on the beach in storms like this one but please stay out of the water, you're putting yourself and you're putting our first responders at risk," Curry said.

He also acknowledged what a tough year it's been.

"2020 has been something else for our country, the world and our community, and experiencing a tropical storm in our area after the end of hurricane season just adds to it. I'm proud of the people this city. I'm proud of how you've handled and how you dealt with this difficult year. You're smart, you're compassionate, you're resilient," Curry said.

 

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.

Contact reporter Cyd Hoskinson at choskinson@wjct.org, 904-358-6351 and on Twitter at @cydwjctnews.

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.