Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

If Hurricane's on the Way, Beaches Needs Head Start; A Study Says Ponte Vedrans Should Leave before Nearby Areas

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

If Hurricane's on the Way, Beaches Needs Head Start; A Study Says Ponte Vedrans Should Leave before Nearby Areas

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTINA ABEL

Ponte Vedra Beach residents should evacuate earlier than others in the Beaches area if a hurricane hits the First Coast, a 2005 Hurricane Evacuation Study says.

But the study also shows that St. Johns County residents have fewer obstacles to fleeing quickly, because more of them have cars and phones and more of them live above the poverty level than in Duval County.

Across the board, Northeast Florida residents are being told that as Flagler, Duval and St. Johns counties continue to grow over the next five years, they need to plan more time to evacuate the area.

In St. Johns County, it could take residents between 11.75 and 62 hours to evacuate, depending on the category of the hurricane, the level of traffic and the number of evacuees heading up from South Florida, the study says.

In Duval County, evacuation could take between 9 and 46.25 hours, depending on the same factors.

Ray Ashton, St. Johns County emergency management director, said people who live on the coast, from Mayport south to St. Augustine Beach, need to be aware that they are all, equally, in the same high-risk category.

"It's the highest vulnerability area," Ashton said Friday. "It's beautiful to live there, but some day there could be problems."

The study, prepared by the Northeast Florida Regional Council, was released last week. The study says St. Johns County residents should take into account that any potential evacuation route will eventually take them through Duval County.

"Time estimates at the 44-hour level become default clearance times for Flagler and St. Johns counties because most of their traffic is routed through Duval," the study says.

The study, which includes information on seven counties in Northeast Florida, said all of these areas are at risk because "a large portion of the population is concentrated along the counties' main bodies of water: the Atlantic coast, Intracoastal Waterway and along the St. Johns River. These are areas most vulnerable to the effects of hurricane storm surge, wind and freshwater flooding."

For example, in Ponte Vedra Beach, Solana Road, west of Sunset Drive, and all of Roscoe Boulevard are considered flood-prone areas. …

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