Understanding Hurricane Evacuation Zones
The purpose of Hurricane Evacuation Zones is to delineate the areas that will need to be evacuated largely because of the potential to feel the effects of Storm Surge. Storm Surge is the most deadly part of a hurricane, responsible for more deaths in recorded history than any other hazard associated with a hurricane. Storm Surge data is derived from the Sea Lake Overland Surges from Hurricane (SLOSH) map provided as part of the Florida Statewide Regional Evacuation Study. Each zone is vulnerable to different levels of surge. The category of a storm is NOT always the best indicator of how much surge it may produce. Rather than using storm category as the indicator, inundation models and predictions from the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service are used to identify vulnerable zones.
Frequently asked Questions:
What is Zone F?
The coastal counties in Northeast Florida, Nassau, Duval, St. Johns and Flagler, added an additional F evacuation zone. Generally, Zone F is located in the inland portions of the County, where there is a specialized flooding risk, such as along the St. Johns River and other water bodies.
Along the Atlantic coastline are Evacuation Zones A, B, C, D and E. An example of a Level C coastal evacuation is inclusive of evacuation Zones A, B and C; and an evacuation at Level E includes evacuation Zones A, B, C, D and E.
Along the St. Johns River, Zone F represents a separate hazard comprised of low areas, or areas subject to flooding under specific conditions.
Zone F in St. Johns County includes the lower lying areas on the western edge of the county along the St. Johns River, including portions of the Town of Hastings and Flagler Estates. The first zone to evacuate will be St. Johns River Zone A, but Zone F will be ordered to evacuate when conditions exist that will cause it to flood. This would result in a St. Johns River Zones A + F evacuation. It’s important to "Know Your Zone" and to listen carefully to evacuation orders to determine if your zone is included.
I'm in Evacuation Zone A - Do I Evacuate in a Category 1 Storm?
The answer is most likely yes. Zone A represents those areas most vulnerable to the effects of a Hurricane and is the first Zone evacuated when a storm threatens the County. However, Zone A is not the Category 1 Zone. Zone A is the area impacted by a hurricane with a storm surge of up to 6.5 feet. Since any surge will cause an evacuation, Zone A is usually always evacuated. Zone B is the area impacted by up to 11.9 feet. Zone C, D and E are the same respectively. As the surge threat level increases, evacuations move further inland to additional vulnerable areas.
How Do I Know When to Evacuate for a Hurricane?
Know Your Zone. The first step in knowing when to evacuate is to know what Evacuation Zone you live in. Listen for Official announcements. When an evacuation order is given, a Press Release is sent to all media and placed on our website at www.sjcemergencymanagement.org/presscur.html. The County will only order an evacuation - by Zone - when lives are in danger. When ordered to evacuate - do so immediately.
Hurricane season is from June 1st through November 31st. During this time of year it is particularly important to monitor the weather for potential weather hazards. A NOAA Weather Radio is your direct link to the National Weather Service broadcasts, and is the best way to receive immediate weather notifications.
Do you know the difference between a watch and a warning? Do you know the Evacuation Routes and where the shelters are located. Now is a good time to increase your awareness so you will know what to do should an evacuation order be announced.
Further information can be found in the St. Johns County Hurricane Preparedness Guide and throughout our website.
How Does the County Determine Who Needs to Evacuate Before a Hurricane?
The County uses information provided in the Evacuation Study to develop evacuation plans - long before any threat exists. During a storm threat the County is in direct contact with the National Hurricane Center, the National Weather Service, the Florida Division of Emergency Management, surrounding Counties and any expert needed to address the specific threat. This information is used to determine if an area needs to be evacuated. Specifically, the County is using the surge predictions to determine what evacuation zones are threatened by that level of surge. Remember, the greatest threat to life is storm surge. Other issues are also taken into consideration; such as isolation, debris hazards, waves, and flooding hazards to name a few.